Lori-Ann Livingston, The Circle

What are you scared of?

Are you irrationally afraid of something? To the point that your body physically responds? Oxford English Dictionary defines phobia as “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.”

I have at least one. Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces, and I trace mine to about age five, when my younger sister locked me in our dryer. I didn’t have the strength to push the door open, and I was terrified. I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced. My face flushed.

Of course, once my sister discovered this, she found opportunities to push into closets and lock the doors. For the longest time, I couldn’t face getting on elevators. In a tent, I had to sleep with my head to the zippered opening so I could quickly get fresh air if I woke up unable to breathe in the middle of the night.

Some people have a phobia to ketchup. It’s called mortuusequusphobia. Mortuu = Latin for dead. Equus = horse. A phobia about ketchup is linguistically and literally “dead horse.” I assume it has something to do with red sauce as an equivalent to blood.

It’s not much comfort to those who suffer from these phobias, but the words describing them are amazing!

  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia = Fear of long words

  • Arachibutyrophobia = Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.

  • Alektorophobia = Fear of chickens

  • Ephebiphobia = Fear of teenagers

Latin-based languages often embed other words that hint at the meaning of the name. For example, the partial word “monstrous” appears in the name for fear of long words. Arachide is peanut in French; the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth thus begins with an element of the French word.

Do you have a phobia? Mine has receded over the years, but my fascination for their names has not.

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