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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Silly Afghans! Triskadekaphobia Is for Kids!

Regular readers of this blog know that the writer of this blog is a regular reader of The New York Times.  Despite the parlous state of newspaper journalism, the Times remains the paper of record not only for New York, but for the nation as a whole.  Still, every once in a while, an editorial oversight so glaring occurs that the Solipsist has to step in and fix things.  And so it was today.

In an article about a recent loya jirga in Afghanistan by Rod Nordland, the following factoid appeared:
"Even before the delegates, divided into 40 working committees, began to take up the jirga’s main issues on Wednesday, there was the thorny matter of Committee 39.

In recent years, Afghans have come to strongly associate that number with pimps, considered the absolute dregs of Afghan society. Most Afghans are so touchy about it that they won’t buy a car with 39 on the license plate, or even use a telephone number with those digits in it."
Now, the jirga simply adopted the strategy--long practiced by elevator-designers in more-than-thirteen-floored buildings--of skipping the offending number, thus making committee #39 into committee #41.

(DIGRESSION: Technically, comittee #39 should have become committee #40, and committee #40 should have become committee #41, but this is Afghanistan we're talking about; any solution that avoids the beheading of a goat is something to be thankful for. EOD)

But, come on Nordland!  How can you provide us with this delightful--yet essentially meaningless--tidbit without explaining where this superstition comes from?

Don't worry, Nation.  The Solipsist is on the case.  According to a few different sources, the precise origin of the superstition is unclear.  Several sites, however, suggest that there was, in fact, a pimp nicknamed '39' because the number appeared on his license plate and was also his apartment number.  Another reliable source (OK, Wikipedia) suggests that the number 39 translates into 'morda-gow,' which is a slang term for 'pimp.'

Just to throw my own meaningless interpretation into the mix: '39' is three times 13, the only TRULY unlucky number.

Now, was that so hard?

(NOTE: I know the post title isn't exactly relevant, but I couldn't resust.)

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