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Fear not! Words exist for all things scary.

The horror genre offers a concept that seems far more laughable than horrifying--the concept of the "Invisible Man."

An empty suit? How scary is that?

Yet, terrified folks flee, shrieking "Aiieee! There's nothing there!"

Literally, running from nothing.

Only those afraid of everything would run from nothing, if you follow me. And there is, in fact, such a fear--pantophobia, which means "fear of everything."

Fear of nothing--unless it's the kind of "nothing" presented by the Invisible Man--also has a name. It's hypophobia, or "the absence of fear."

Of course, fear of everything or fear of nothing is equally irrational.

And there's a big difference between a simple fear and a full-blown phobia.

But judging from the huge number of "phobia" words, there's much to fear.

Some better-known terrors are claustrophobia, agoraphobia, ochlophobia, ophidiophobia, musophobia, and brontophobia--more commonly known as fear of closed spaces, open spaces, crowds, snakes, mice and thunder.

Certain fears are so prevalent that popular culture capitalizes on them.

Steven Spielberg's 1990 film "Arachnophobia" took fear of spiders to a comic extreme.

Acrophobia--fear of heights--was a central theme in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 movie "Vertigo."

Fear of heights also afflicted British television's beloved Inspector Morse.

Aviatophobia lent novelist Erica Jong the richly symbolic title of her 1973 book, "Fear of Flying."

The Oxford English Dictionary lists many odd, even outlandish "phobia" words. Such words also can be found in: the "Insomniac's Dictionary of the Outrageous, Odd, and Unusual" by Paul Hellweg; "Crazy English" by Richard Lederer; and "Words at Play" by O. V. Michaelsen.

For some, hell really is other people: androphobia, fear of men; gynephobia, fear of women; and xenophobia, fear of strangers or foreigners.

But do we really need a word such as armenophobia? Is fear of Armenians viable?

Some fears are understandable even if you don't share them. For example: dentophobia, fear of going to the dentist; agrizoophobia, fear of wild animals; algophobia, fear of pain; and hematophobia, fear of blood.

Thanatophobia, fear of death, is a biggie, but another common phobia is topophobia, extreme stage fright or fear of performing in public.

Studies have shown that some people would rather face death than an audience.

One can understand policophobia--fear of the police--in certain circumstances. But blennophobia, alliumphobia and arachibutyrophobia--fear of slime, garlic and getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of the mouth?

Yes, there's no shortage of curious phobias.

Tridecaphobia, fear of the number 13, is well known. I was surprised to find we need such a word as porphyrophobia--fear of the color purple--until I discovered chromophobia, fear of color in general.

There's a word for the malady afflicting those who can't stand prosperity--chrematophobia--fear of wealth and another for the fear of getting good news, euphobia. One can readily imagine being fearful of the "midnight hours," but not the soulful Wilson Pickett, who eagerly awaited it. But eosophobia? That's fear of dawn.

One group of phobias makes you wonder if folks have been reading too much "DaVinci Code."

For example: paterophobia, fear of the Fathers of the early Church; ecclesiophobia, fear of church; hagiophobia, fear of holy things; and homilophobia, fear of sermons.

Practice those phobias long enough, and another could be in the works: hadephobia, fear of hell.

Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt had phobophobia in mind when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Phobophobia is fear of fearing.

And there's misocainea, fear of anything new, and tropophobia, fear of making changes. The phobia that most likely saw some increase up to Nov. 2 is politicophobia, fear of politicians.

Even wordsmiths have fears.

Metrophobia is fear of poetry. And don't mention "Madam I'm Adam" to sufferers of aibohphobia, fear of palindromes.

A palindrome is something that reads the same backward as forward.

Notice that this cleverly named phobia--aibohphobia--is a palindrome.

There's even phobologophobia--a malady that could make reading this column a nightmare. It means fear of phobia words.

Paula LaRocque, former writing coach at The Dallas Morning News, is author of "The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well" and "Championship Writing." You can E-mail her at plarocque@sbcglobal.net.
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Title Annotation:Words And Language
Author:LaRocque, Paula
Publication:The Quill
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:684
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