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a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger


Another 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
Erythrophobia           the color red
Francophobia            French people or things
Gynephobia              women
Hemophobia              blood
Lyssophobia             going insane
Mysophobia              dirt, filth
Necrophobia             death, dead bodies
Ochlophobia             crowds
Photophobia             light
Russophobia             Russian people and things
Sitophobia              food
Triskaidekaphobia       the number 13
Xenophobia              foreigners or strangers
Zoophobia               animals
The 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.

-- Eric

[13 December 2005]

 Palindromic S...
 Dos Equis
 Box Office Pa...
 My Initial Su...
 Rock & Roll1
 Aye, Qs!
 This & That
 It's All Abou...1
 Non-Crashing ...
 Box Office Cu...
 All In A Row1
 Chemical Symb...1
 Over 636 Pali...2
 Omino Font
 Front Hook: S1
 History of Bo...1
 Front Hook: R
 Well, Moviego...6
 Front Hook: Q
 Front Hook: P
 Front Hook: O
 Front Hook: N1
 Front Hook: M
 Front Hook: L
 Front Hook: K
 Front Hook: J1
 Front Hook: I2
 Front Hook: H4
 Front Hook: G3
 Front Hook: F
 Front Hook: E
 Front Hook: D
 Front Hook: C
 Front Hook: B1
 Front Hook: A
 Multiple Solu...1
 And The Nomin...
 I want a cut ...2
 Scrabble Play...
 The answer is...2
 Pangrams and ...
 Pangrams and ...
 Secret Weapon...
 Colorful Citi...2
 Song, Song, S...2
 Favorite Numb...3
 Periodic Tabl...1
 Body Of Music...
 Filmed In Tec...3
 Cryptic Femal...1
 Colorful Film...1
 Elemental Bod...5
 Ambigrams Rev...1
 Calculated Wo...2
 Teacher Torto...2
 True Story
 Sending My Re...
 Word Dice3
 That Does It!3
 Lexomino Puzz...
 Morse Code Pa...5
 Bringing Ingo...7
 Dot, Dot, Das...2
 Repeated lett...3
 Palindromic P...6
 Palindromic P...
 Sick Pun4
 Typesetting 2...2
 What is a "wo...
 Hollywood Nam...
 Front Hooks
 Half Price
 Through The 7...
 Bourne To Run4
 V for Very Di...
 Scrabble: Ash...
 Scrabble, red...1
 A=1, B=2, C=32
 4 Sides To Ev...4
 Periodic Tabl...2
 String of Mov...3
 Where's Winsl...4
 Standardized ...2
 Unintended Am...1
 Web Too Dah T...1
 Too clever by...4
 Another wordy...
 Beyond BOOKKE...7
 Not Positive ...11
 Scrabble Tabl...2
 Another Pan-v...1
 Not So Frugal
 Not So Funny ...1
 Memory of GAM...5
 Musical Wordp...
 Chemical Abbr...1
 Movie Rebuses7
 Television Sh...1
 Even More Het...
 More Heterogr...3
 Those crazy H...2
 Alli says, "A...
 A Puzzling St...3
 Synonymous Co...1
 Rubik Font3
 Under A Spell
 State The Rea...2
 7x7 Scrabble ...
 7x7 Scrabble ...
 Scrabble Squa...4
 Tube Maps2
 GAMES Magazin...
 Superbowl: ST...
 Letter Shifti...1
 Projects of L...
 Slices of PI,...
 Slices of PI,...
 QWERTY vs. Dv...2
 Word Chemistr...
 Pangrammic Cr...1
 Comments for ...1
 Alphabet Soup4
 Book List
 Scrabble Tile...
 Letter Shifti...
 Pangrammic Cr...
 Word Searchin...1

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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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