a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger
PhobiasAnother alphabetic challenge I sent for myself years ago (probably on some rainy afternoon) was to try to find a "phobia" for each letter of the alphabet. Wordplay often reflects something more than just a fascination with letters and language; it can represent a fascination with patterns (and maybe a compulsive need to make lists? [grin]).
The Phobia-list is one such example. Why would a kid be at all interested in finding various -phobia words? I wasn't particularly frightened as a child. I had no irrational fears. No, I just realized that every so often I would learn a new word, and that new word ended in an odd pattern that I had heard in some other words: "pho-bi-a".
And if the pattern was formed by the common ending, then what did all of those beginnings mean? Well, there were patterns there too. The "hemo-" in HEMOPHOBIA was obviously the same "hemo-" from "hemotology" and "hemophiliac" (both words there also had suffixes which formed recognized patterns with a slew of other words -- I was beginning to look at all of these words not as single units, but structures built from blocks of language).
Anyway, at some point, all of those years ago, I started to jot down the phobias I'd hear about, look up what the associated prefixes meant, and then wonder, "is there one for every letter of the alphabet?" (this question probably first popped into my head when hearing of XENOPHOBIA which started with that oh, so, very uncommon letter "X").
My list from way back then was far from complete:
PHOBIA "Fear of..." ------------------------------------------------- Acrophobia heights Bibliophobia books Claustraphobia enclosed or narrow places D Erythrophobia the color red Francophobia French people or things Gynephobia women Hemophobia blood I J K Lyssophobia going insane Mysophobia dirt, filth Necrophobia death, dead bodies Ochlophobia crowds Photophobia light Q Russophobia Russian people and things Sitophobia food Triskaidekaphobia the number 13 U V W Xenophobia foreigners or strangers Y Zoophobia animalsThe phobia list was also very intriguing simply because of the oddness of some of the found words and associated afflictions. Were there really people afraid of books? or of trains (SIDERODROMOPHOBIA)? As a kid I could understand BRONTOPHOBIA (fear of thunder and lightning), but some of these words hinted at a world of people I was complete unfamiliar with.
Evidently I'm not the only one who set himself with this logological task. Today, on the internet you can find the Phobia List which is maintained by a fellow who has obviously dedicated more of his time to this particular venture than I have. He lacks a Q-phobia and, amazingly (I think), a Y-phobia. Still, his tremedous list is impressive, and one has to wonder if we, as a society, are not, in fact, a little too eager to dwell in our fears...
Hmmm. That would be a another discussion for another weblog.
[13 December 2005]
Comments about this article:I believe the reason a valid entry for 'Q' and 'Y' have not been found is due to the naming convention, using Greek words, and that too few valid words begin with those letters.
http://www.phobialist.com/phobia_names.html mentions the Greek word naming convention.
The only option I've found for 'Y' is:
yotta- [YAH tuh or maybe YOH tuh] (Greek: from octo-, “eight”; a decimal prefix used in the international metric system for measurements)
But fear of a decimal prefix in the metric system seems even less common than the recognized Trichinophobia - Fear of trichinosis.
Posted by: Aaron Sneary
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