Honolulu Lite


Daily life will frighten
the phobias right out of you

We live in scary times. We live in complex times. So it's no surprise that people are no longer scared by simple things. They are afraid of many things at once. Why? It saves time.

I've confessed publicly that I suffer from a disorder I invented called pre-traumatic stress syndrome. It's a disorder for our times. See, anyone can suffer from POST-traumatic stress syndrome. That's where something horrible happens to you, like being wounded in battle or having to go to a Yanni concert, and you become mentally unhinged afterward. With pre-traumatic stress syndrome, you worry about all the horrible things that COULD happen to you. And trust me, it's a full-time job.

When you are really, really afraid of something, you are suffering from a phobia. There are so many phobias out there that there is a phobia for people who are afraid of phobias (phobophobia).

Just because you have a phobia doesn't mean you're nuts. There are certain things you are supposed to be afraid of. So if you are agliophobic -- afraid of pain -- that's a good thing. Other phobias that make a lot of sense to me are agrizoophobia (fear of wild animals), altophobia (fear of heights), antlophobia (fear of floods) and coulrophobia (fear of clowns.) Not to be afraid of those things would be crazy.

Some phobias don't really seem worth the designation. For instance, is zemmiphobia, a fear of the great mole rat, really necessary? I suspect that the great mole rat is not dangerous, simply misunderstood.

COMBINATION PHOBIAS are the rage in today's complex world. If you run into someone who is annorex-arachnophobic, he's afraid of skinny spiders. Someone who is cyprido-claustrophobic has a fear of prostitutes in confined spaces.

Ailurophobia is the fear of cats. Androphobia is the fear of men. Those suffering from andro-ailurophobia fear men who appear in the musical "Cats."

There are people who fear chickens (alektorophobics) and people who fear bald people (peladophobics). So there must be people out there who fear bald chickens (pelado-alektorphobics).

Dendrophobics fear trees. But dento-dendrophobics fear dentists who work in trees. And if they also suffer from a fear of heights, they become acro-dento-dendrophobics, which, though a mouthful, isn't that unreasonable. Neither should one feel bad about being pupaphobic (afraid of puppets). Puppets are frightening, especially for people also afraid of string (linonophobics).

You should actually feel proud if you are a linono-pupa-nucleomituphobic, which simply means you are afraid of string puppets with nuclear weapons.

If you are excessively afraid of something or lots of somethings, you can find out what kind of a phobic you are on the Internet at But it's horrifying just to see a list of so many terrifying disorders. For instance, I never knew about tachophobia (fear of speed) and taeniophobia (fear of tapeworms), but now I'm positively tacho-taeniophobic (afraid of speeding tapeworms).

I know my editors suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words), especially when, knowing what a lousy speller I am, they appear in this space.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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