Saturday, September 25, 2010

phobia du jour— from A to Z

I was looking for a word, a good word, to describe a feeling. But instead, I came upon a list that did not even remotely include the word I was looking for. When I printed out the list, it ran 17 pages. It was put together by someone with the unlikely name of Fredd Culbertson, who says he started the list as a lark in 1995, and just can't seem to stop. Now, what's the word for that?

The list, of course, was The Phobia List. The thing that amazed me was that there were not only lots of phobias I had never heard of, but also lots of phobias I could not even imagine. This was a bit heartening, since there were an awful lot of them that sounded like just plain common sense to me, and not phobias at all (phobias being defined as irrational fears).

There is, after all, an evolutionary value to having fears that keep us wary. And yes, I'm aware that it's only an evolutionary advantage if these fears manage to keep us safe long enough to reproduce and get that next generation on the road to further fecundity. I suppose after that we're really on our own.

Well, here are some of my favorites from Fredd Culbertson's Phobia List, from A to Z.

A — The A's were pretty boring to me except for this one. alektorophobia — fear of chickens. And the reason I found this one interesting is that there was only one term for this fear, compared to (for example) the many different terms for fears of erectile dysfunction and cats.

B — There were only 18 entries for the letter B, and they, too, seemed pretty innocuous. Fears of slime, toads, and Bolsheviks and the like.

C — The C's seemed like they would be a bit more promising, with 50 entries. But no, it was just the usual run from sex, cemeteries, constipation and comets.

D — Maybe I should just give up looking for my word, but I've just gotten to D, and I mean, who isn't fearful of diabetes, dentists, and dinner conversations?

E — The most interesting one I found here was ergasiophobia — the fear a surgeon has of operating.

F — There were only 4 F's. Fear of fevers, cats, the French, and the cold.

G — The G's were not bad, although there were still more terms here for fearing the French and cats. But there was also geniophobia — the fear of chins, and that's gotta be worth a good story somewhere.

H — The common theme here was the church, the dead, and creepy crawly things. helminthophobia — fear of being infested with worms. Running along the firmament theme, was hylophobia — the fear of forests. And there were quite a number of entries in this regard.

I — More penile fears, bugs, and doctors.

J — There were only two of these: Fear of the Japanese, and fear of the Jews.

K — Nothing earthshattering here.

L — Well, okay, I misread an entry here: limnophobia — which I thought was a fear of latkes (which sounds reasonable to me). But it turned out it was fear of lakes. Go figure.

M — There were some classics in the M's. Menstruation. Dirt. Mice. And more penile fears. My favorite among the M's however, has got to be metrophobia — the fear or hatred of poetry.

N — Along with the fear of nuclear weapons was something useful: novercaphobia — fear of your step mother. A good one for the fairy tales.

O — Try omphalophobia — the fear of belly buttons (which is actually a long story, as it can refer to the world's umbilicus, which could use some extra protection right about now).

P — There were over a page and a half of P-phobias. And here, the dreaded pentheraphobia makes it's appearance. Fear of the mother-in-law. Hmm. In a few days, that would be me, wouldn't it? Better remember this one.

Q — The letter Q managed to escape the list. No Q phobias at all. Yet.

R — Wrinkles and Russians...

S — A solid page of S's including the two at the top of my list, sociophobia and somniphobia.

T — The T's ran the gamut from tapeworms to theology to Germans.

U — Only 2 phobias here. uranophobia — the fear of heaven, and urophobia — the fear of pissing.

V — Another thematic letter. Fear of beautiful women, clothing, rape, and the step father.

W — That would be for Walloons, of course, and witchcraft, and nothing else. I personally have never had any problem at all with either one.

X — More fear of forests and wooden objects. And curiously, xanthophobia — fear of the color yellow or even the word yellow.

Y — How could there be no phobias for the letter Y?

Z — There were four, and they seemed rather banal.

But what I didn't find was a nice concise term for the fear of falling on your face at your son's wedding because you're wearing pretty shoes for the first time in your life. What's Greek for that?


  1. That is not an irrational fear, so it has no -phobia word. That is just plain good sense. Girl shoes are ridiculous and must be feared at all turns.

  2. Conducted an informal survey of the (straight) women at the wedding — and there they were all wearing the ridiculous pretty-shoes, hobbled and barely able to walk (with an extra pair of flexible flats in their bags). This is insane! I remember Tom Lehrer's definition of lesbians: women in comfortable shoes. Which makes dykes the only rational women I know!