I’ve heard it said that the Inuit Eskimo culture has anywhere from 20-100 different words for snow. Well, apparently, that’s not entirely true – it’s more like three with a bunch of different descriptors. Native Hawaiian language claims at least 100 words for rain. From my 30 seconds of investigating for this blog post, they also seem a little repetitive and descriptive. But in both cases, I think the languages focused on something central to their culture.
The English language has a lot of words for fear. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows well over 100 words for fear. What would people think of our culture? But the list shares something in common with the Eskimo language – virtually all the words have the same root – phobia – with different descriptors. Some are probably familiar to most people, like Claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13), and even Arachnaphobia (fear of John Goodman movies).
I was surprised to find some of the things that have named fears:
- Barophobia – fear of gravity
- Chromophobia – fear of bright colors
- Hylophobia – fear of trees, forests, or wood
- Papaphobia – fear of the Pope
- Turophobia – fear of cheese
So what got me started on this? What am I afraid of, you ask? Well, I’m somewhat afraid of needles (Aichmophobia), but it’s really more of a dislike. I’m a little afraid of heights (Acrophobia), but it’s not the height that scares me as much as the possibility of falling, which apparently is normal in most mammals so there’s not a named fear for it. But what got me thinking of fear is when I came across Anatidaephobia. I immediately recognized it, but I couldn’t remember what it was.
That’s what got me started – I thought that at one time I knew what this word meant, what fear it was describing, and now I couldn’t place it. I couldn’t pull the significance from my brain. It was to the point that I even asked myself in Italian “Che cosa significa?” I had to find out – I had to know the answer or it would derail my morning.
Well, it is “the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.” What? Why in the world would I think I knew that?! I must be losing it. Is this real? Am I in a dream right now? This can’t be real. But wait – anatra is Italian for duck. Oh – I’m dreaming in a foreign language again! Then I find the wiki page – it’s not there! I find some of the fears I listed above, I keep scrolling, scrolling, man there’s a lot of fear in the world, scrolling, then in the last section, there it is! Anatidaephobia!
It’s under “Jocular and fictional phobias.” Then the explanation becomes clear. It’s my old friend Gary Larson. No, not the Biology professor from Bethany College, the comic strip artist of The Far Side. We were so enthralled with The Far Side that in the late 80’s we even had a spoof on it called “The Ed Side Gallery” or something like that in our Physics class. So here’s a few of the other phobias from pop culture (straight from Wikipedia):
- Luposlipaphobia –fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor, also from Gary Larson‘s The Far Side
- Arachibutyrophobia – fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. The word is used by Charles M. Schulz in a 1982 installment of his Peanuts comic strip
- Aibohphobia – a joke term for the fear of palindromes, which is a palindrome itself.
- Keanuphobia – fear of Keanu Reeves, portrayed in the Dean Koontz book, False Memory (A.H. – I thought this would have been called velociphobia….)
Ironically, in church the day before this diversion into fear occurred, part of what Jim Agnew shared with us was that we have no reason the fear – God provided his Son to take all our sins, and fears, away. Just as FDR and later the musical geniuses of Living Colour reminded us in The Cult of Personality: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Hmm. Looking back, perhaps it wasn’t so inappropriate to have that song played at our wedding reception then.
So this morning, I raise my cup to you: “Here’s hoping you don’t let fear stand in the way of living your life today.”