Fear very long words? You've got hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

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London, Jan 11 : Do you steer clear of medical dictionaries and high-scoring Scrabble players? Well, then you might be suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - the fear of very long words.

This is just one of the most curious phobias, catalogued by readers of New Scientist magazine, who learnt about their fears through counselling companies guaranteeing a cure.

The readers' inquisitiveness brought out a whole dictionary of phobias, including nucleomituphobia - the fear of nuclear weapons, odontophobia - the fear of dentists, and Francophobia - the fear of the French.

The dictionary of phobias emerged out of the website of a US company selling alternative treatments.

ChangeThatsRightNow.com points out 1,500 phobias, including paraskavedekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th, and offers "one-to-one help" for about 1200 pounds.

Other phobias in the dictionary include Rhytiphobia, the fear of wrinkles, and pentheraphobia, the fear of mothers-in-law.

However, New Scientist was unconvinced, noting that "phobias conspicuous by their absence included "fear of silly marketing" and "fear of repetitive websites".

Numerous British psychologists are of the view that phobias existed for almost anything.

"It's not unusual for people to have unusual phobias. Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, is surprisingly common," Times Online quoted Robert Endelmann, a chartered psychologist and a patron of the National Phobics Society, as saying.

Among the fears treated by psychologists are learned phobias that sufferers may have "caught" from friends or family, and phobias that may have a deep-rooted biological trigger.

"Fear of the dark, fear of high places and fear of things that move quickly, such as spiders or snakes - it would have been useful for our ancestors to be afraid of such things," Professor Endelmann said.

He added that he is not convinced that phobias are proliferating.

However, he did believe that "we have become probably more ready to apply a label to things. However, from a therapeutic point of view, if someone has a problem with their life it probably doesn't help to apply a label to it."

Philip Durkin, principle etymologist for the Oxford English Dictionary, gave insight into the roots of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, identifying "sesquipedalian" (having many syllables) as the main component.

"The hippopotomonstro part is clearly someone adding hippopotamus and monstrous. It doesn't really follow linguistic rules. It's sort of a joke. The label mocks the sufferer," he said.

ANI

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