I receive a lot of email regarding phobias. The first thing I would like to say is, "I am not an expert on phobias. I just have the list." Having said that, I'd like to use this page to share some of the questions I receive, give a little credit, and say whatever else comes to my mind.
Most of the questions I receive are in the form of, "looking for the name of this phobia." Sometimes I can help, sometimes I have no idea.
- Most Wanted List...Phobias we want to name -
You may want to read this before you propose a name.
- Fear of feet. This one gets a lot of responses and the most common is 'Podophobia.' If someone has the reference for it, let me know.
- Fear of suicide.
- Fear of toy balloons.
- Fear of glaciers.
- Fear of sales people.
- Fear of taking the cotton out of a medicine bottle and also the fear of those little cotton balls. My suggestion, Cotonphobia.
- Fear of talking animals. I have no idea...although many people have offered 'MrEdophobia.'
- Fear of lists.
- Fear of bats.
- Fear of the keyboard. Hmm.
- Fear of underwear. Fruitoftheloomophobia. (Being facetious again) Wait...BVDaphobia!!!
- Fear of driving on the highway. City driving is ok, it's just the highway that's a problem. This one seems to be common.
- Fear of losing a limb; arm, leg, etc.
- Fear of midgets or dwarfs. Should that be dwarves?
Some of these may fall under another phobia.
My thanks to these publications and people:
Mrs. Byrnes Dictionary. ISBN 0-671-49782-0
Roget's Thesaurus. ISBN 0-690-00010-3
The Random House College Dictionary. ISBN 0-394-43500-1
The Random House Unabridged Dictionary. ISBN 0-679-42917-4
The Merck Manual. ISBN 0911910-06-9
The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears and Anxieties. ISBN 0-8160-1798-0
The Book of Lists. Houghton-Mifflin Publishers.
Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary.
The New York Times
The English-Oxford Dictionary
The People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists
Ray Urie (that crazy Scotsman)
Robert G. Haining
Terry R. Warren
Wife of T. R. Warren
Debbie Culbertson. My newfound cousin.
William Ashley Stein
Andrew V. Funk
Russell W. DeGarmo
Mary Tossell BS MS RN
Solomon P. Windsor IV
Sara and .D.A.V.I.D.
John P. Dyson
Robert R. Rainey, Jr.
Stephen M. Clark
Juliette (From Russia)
Jan P. Kraft (Normande)
Mark St. Thomas
Mark & Susan Smith
For some reason, by far, the most requested phobia name not on the list (...see conclusion below ) is the fear of clowns. A number of students seem to be doing a paper on it, universities seem to be interested in it, as are public libraries. I know that Pasquale in the cartoon "Rose is Rose" has a phobia about clowns; perhaps that's where some of the interest lies. Many people seem to think that it comes from the Stephen King movie "It". Having not seen the movie, I can't say. I did see a little girl at her birthday party go into hysterics when Barney showed up in "real" life, yet he was her favorite thing on TV. Are there a lot of people that are afraid of clowns, and why? (besides the fact that they're ugly) Don't they do FUNNY things that make us laugh?
I am still searching for the name of clown phobia, but also I am seeking the cause of so much interest in it. Anyone have any theories?
And now the update and conclusion........sort of
There have been a number of offerings for the name of "Clown Phobia", some serious and some not so serious . I've run them by the experts and one by one they've been offed. The best suggestion and the one that I've decided to use is Coulrophobia. It too has been declared "not quite correct", but...since it is used by doctors, I've decided that until further review, it makes the list. Many thanks to everyone who has assisted in this search and particularly to John Dyson, who has shown great patience with all my questions. He has given me the classical Greek meaning for Koulon:
"Koulon" is classical Greek for "limb" (i.e., leg, arm, etc.). There are several terms that include it. One of them means "stilts" and another means "stilt-walker."
Not quite the meaning we were looking for, but until further notice...coulrophobia it is.
I received this email and thought the writer has an interesting view of Coulrophobia.
"I read with great interest the information on your website as a link to a physiological psychology textbook by Carlson. I have a theory about the reason for fearing clowns that I thought I would suggest to you. Because clowns have permanent, exaggerated expressions painted on their faces - usually of joy but not always, it renders the observer impotent in measuring facial expression as a precurser of action and for those who are vigilent about their environment, possibly because of past traumatic events, they are unable to interpret and therefore predict what this creature may do to them. This is heightened when we observe the "happy" clown performing some aggressive behavior - it becomes too much to take - creating intense confusion and fear. I don't know if this is the reason - simply my first thoughts on a very intriguing subject. It would be interesting if there were any confirmation."
I found this quote in an interview with Anton Adassinski by Ismene Brown regarding clowns. Adassinski is the founder of the cult Russian clown company, Derevo.
Brown: "What qualities make a good clown? Come to that, what is a clown?"
Adassinski: "Some people say you can't learn to be a clown, you have to be born one. I don't believe that. I was born a normal man, I just learned it from Slava, and proved it for myself. If you work very hard in any direction, you have a result.
But what is a clown? It's not my words, but I will say what they say in Russia. There is one string between universal chaos and our planet, a string that is laughter. When you laugh, you connect yourself again with chaos. Which is why when we find something funny the body suddenly moves in this uncontrollable way. The clown is the person who can pull the string and turn the universe upside down and show people there is another way to live, another magic reality."
One of the most submitted phobia names is Aibohphobia, the fear of Palindromes. As clever as it is, I have yet to add it to the list since I haven't been able to find it in a reference book. Also, I can't figure that anyone would acutally be so afraid of a palindrome that they would break into a sweat. That's not to say that it hasn't happened, but until I see someone cringing at the sight of one or I find a reference to it, it's off the list.
The latest craze seems to be wanting to find the name for the fear of elevators. No, it's not on the list. I don't know where this started but it seems that nearly one third of my email is in the pursuit of this elusive phobia name. Of all the names, the two best I've heard are 'Otisophobia' and, of course, 'Elevatorophobia.' I don't know how this will end or if there's even someone out there that has the name (and a good reference for it!) but something will have to give.
What is the thing with midgets and dwarfs?
I keep getting the request for this fear over and over. I don't have the name for this phobia so I have added it to the most wanted list.
I finally broke down and nabbed the domain name for the Phobia List. Moving the site is a job that I've been dreading but it's time to do it. If you run across a link to it at it's old site, would you please inform the webmaster at the linking site? The new address is: http://phobialist.com
Yes, a phobia can exist and not be on the list. And also...yes, I have phobias...the first one to come to mind is stage fright or public speaking or performing in front of others.
The fine line between fear and hatred is often encountered in dealing with these names. Homophobes usually aren't as afraid of homosexuals as that they hate them and xenophobes often hate and fear foreigners so, one could use hatred with the names also.
Perhaps it's easier for some people to admit that they hate something rather than they're afraid of it?
I receive a lot of email concerning the legitimacy of Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. This is my most recent reply:
...hippo is Greek for horse....as in hippopotamus which is 'river horse.' If someone calls a person a hippo, it usually means they are big. Monstro comes from monstrous, Latin for monstrosity - again big. And sesquipedalian means given to using long words...comes from latin meaning measuring a foot and a half - also big. You can find hippopotomonstrosesquidedalian in The Word Lover's Dictionary by Josefa Heifetz, ISBN 0-8065-1720-4. ( one of my favorite books )
I found hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia in a medical paper.
This word was coined incorrectly using Greek and Latin but it's a real word none the less, much like many words we use daily in our American English language. Television is another - tele, Greek for far and vision, Latin for seeing.
This leads me to thinking of the two approaches to writing a dictionary. One can say, "This is what this word means," or one can say, "This is what people mean when they use this word." These are two entirely different ideas and it creates a problem for anyone attempting to define anything.