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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Friday the 13th: So What's the Big Deal?

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(MUSIC)

HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Gwen Outen. On our show this week:

1979: Rappers delight with

Musical memories of rap ...

A question from Nigeria about presidential aircraft …

And a look at the calendar.

Friday the Thirteenth

Do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia? Do you even know what that means? Bob Doughty has the explanation.

BOB DOUGHTY: It means fear of Friday the thirteenth. The word is paraskevidekatriaphobia (pair-uh-skee-vee-dek-uh-tree-uh-FOH-bee-uh). Fear of just the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia (tris-ki-de-ke-FO-be-uh).

Modern thinkers may not believe as much in such things. And how these fears began is unclear. Yet popular culture still considers Friday the thirteenth an unlucky day.

Here are just a few recent newspaper stories that we found with Google, the Internet search engine: In Massachusetts, the North Adams Transcript announced a talk to be given Friday night. It said the speaker will discuss "the power of superstition and its roots in nature." That is, if anyone feels safe enough to leave home. Sorry, a little joke; the story did not say that.

But in New York state, the Independent in the Hamptons did say this about military base closings by the Defense Department:

"Perhaps Friday the thirteenth will be lucky for the Air National Guard One Hundred Sixth Rescue Wing. That's the day officials expect to learn if the base located at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach will remain open."

In Texas, the Daily News in Galveston County wrote about a sports event to raise money for medical research. The story said: "This Friday the thirteenth promises to bring nothing but good luck to those participating in the first Serving to Ace Leukemia Tennis Tournament."

Our last example involves a graduation ceremony at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. A report in the News and Record told about three Bosnian Muslim immigrants graduating together. Sanela Kalender, her husband Almir and his brother Armin had fled the Bosnian war in the nineteen nineties. They settled in North Carolina in two thousand.

In the words of the story: "The commencement ceremony falls on what's supposed to be one of the unluckiest days of the year, but which has turned out to be the luckiest for the Kalenders. They arrived in America on a Friday the thirteenth. They will graduate on a Friday the thirteenth."

Presidential Aircraft

Air Force One
Air Force One

HOST: Our question this week comes from Kwara State, Nigeria. Obalugemo Folorunsho wants to know why aircraft that fly the American president are called Air Force One and Marine One.

Air Force One and Marine One are radio call signs. An Air Force Web site says the call sign "Air Force One" was first used in the nineteen fifties. The name "Air Force One" is used for any Air Force plane carrying the president. "Marine One" is used for any Marine Corps helicopter that the president is on.

The Air Force has two specially designed Boeing seven-forty-sevens for presidential travel. These huge planes can fly halfway around the world without re-fueling. They can carry more than one hundred passengers and crew.

The planes carry high-technology communications and other electronics. There are private areas for the president and his family, as well as a conference room and office. Separate spaces are provided for Secret Service bodyguards and the news media. There are two kitchens. And the planes also carry medical equipment. The planes are kept near Washington at Andrews Air Force Base, home to the Presidential Airlift Group.

Marine Helicopter Squadron One also serves the president. For years, the main helicopter used has been the Sikorsky V-H-three-D. But the Lockheed Martin company in January won a competition to produce the next presidential helicopter. The one chosen is called the U-S-one-oh-one.

Sugarhill Gang

(MUSIC)

"Hate It or Love It." That's the name of the song. "Hate It or Love It" is from the hip-hop artist known as The Game, with Fifty Cent. You can hear it on "The Documentary," The Game's first album, and one of the top rap albums in America right now.

The other day, our producer, Caty Weaver, was listening to the radio on her drive to work. She heard a song that made her think about what hip-hop music sounded like in its early days. Steve Ember has our story.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: This is not the song Caty heard. This is "Good Times" by the group Chic. "Good Times" became a disco hit in nineteen seventy-nine. But it also played a part in a song released later that year by another group.

They called themselves the Sugarhill Gang: Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee. And they called their song "Rapper's Delight."

(MUSIC)

"Rapper's Delight" earned a place in pop music history. It became the first rap song to appear on the list of the Billboard Top Forty hits in popular music.

Here is another song from the Sugarhill Gang. This one is called "Apache."

(MUSIC)

Today, the form of hip-hop that the Sugarhill Gang became famous for is known as old school. It still has a following. And the gang is still performing, twenty-six years after "Rapper's Delight."

We leave you with Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee, and their song called "Eighth Wonder."

(MUSIC)

HOST: I'm Gwen Outen. I hope you enjoyed our program.

Our show was written by Nancy Steinbach, Ed Stautberg and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com. Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Please join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

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