From A-listers to the abstract: 8 fun (for some!) fictional phobias
Phobia: A fear, horror, strong dislike, or aversion; esp. an extreme or irrational fear or dread aroused by a particular object or circumstance.
Derived from the Greek word ‘phobos,’ meaning fear, the modern usage of the word ‘phobia’ is therefore unsurprising. In Greek mythology, Phobos was Aphrodite and Ares’ son and was the personification of fear. Following on with this Greek theme, the words for phobias are often formed using the Greek word for the object which causes the fear and then combined with the suffix ‘phobia.’ Agoraphobia, the fear of an environment with no clear escape, is an example of this. It is formed from the Greek ‘agora’ which was a public space in Ancient Greek cities, with the suffix ‘phobia’.
Phobias are unlimited and diverse. While you may be familiar with arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces), here are some more… unusual phobias invented for or used in works of fiction.
‘Anatidae’ is the term for a biological family of birds which have adapted to float or swim on water such as ducks, swans and geese. Add the suffix ‘phobia’ and you have the lesser known phenomenon anatidaephobia – the fear that somewhere, somehow a duck is watching you.
The word was created by cartoonist Gary Larson for his popular comics The Far Side, which ran from 1980 to 1995.
Not to get too existential but this word means the fear of nothingness. Let’s not dwell too much on the concept, but rather on its interesting origin in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager called ‘Night’ which first aired in October 1998. It combines the Latin ‘nihil’ meaning nothing, with the combining form, ‘-phobia.’
Hollywood A-lister Keanu Reeves was the cause of psychological stress for a female character in Dean Koontz’s novel False Memory in which she sought psychiatric help for her Keanuphobia, a fear based on the character Reeves portrays in the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix. The term was coined by the author but whether or not it will fall into common use is up for debate.
What some of us may class as vaguely annoying is for others downright terrifying. This phobia, which was created by Charles M. Schulz in his Peanuts comic strip, means the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. The word was later used by novelist Peter O’Donnell in his spy novel Dead Man’s Handle (1985).
Taphephobia is the gruesome fear of being buried alive; ‘taphos’ being the Greek for ‘grave’. Edgar Allan Poe had a fascination with the concept and featured it in his horror story The Premature Burial. While this phobia is less common in our modern age of advanced medicine, in the 18th and 19th centuries when the cholera epidemic was at its height, the fear was widespread, so much so that a safety coffin was invented which conveniently provided any potential living occupant of the coffin to signal that they were still alive.
Fearless Indiana Jones isn’t afraid of anything… right? Ever since an incident on a circus train where he fell into a snake pen, Jones has suffered from ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes.
The fear of bats is not unusual, what is unusual is that batman, a man who flies like a bat, dresses as a bat, bears the symbol of a bat and all round seems like a really big bat fan, is scared of them. There is a seemingly logical thought process behind this ironic situation. Batman, whose fear stemmed from his childhood, dresses as a bat to strike terror into his enemies’ hearts as he views bats as a symbol of fear.
Have you ever been chased by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor? Yeah, me too. This common occurrence was called Luposilpahobia by Gary Larson for his comic The Far Side.
Still with me? Not scared you off yet? Here are two bonus (and ironic) phobias:
The irony on this one is strong. Comprised of words meaning large and monstrous (such as sesquipedalian which means a long, polysyllabic word), this 35-lettered word defines what it itself is; a long word, more specifically, the fear of long words.
Read this word in reverse as well as forwards and you will notice that it is a palindrome. Ironically, it also happens to mean the fear of palindromes. Yikes!