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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Fear of Words

I read a story years ago, in one of those "News of The Weird" sections of a newspaper that some man somewhere shot his girlfriend for saying the wrong words. "Well, duh," you're thinking, "words are provocative." You aren't on the same page with me yet. He shot his girlfriend for saying the words "Philadelphia" or "snickers."  Take a beat to contemplate that. Now, don't get angry with  me, but those may not be the actual words, but they are illustrative of how random and noninflammatory (to most of us) the words that caused the violence were.  In this particular case, which I can't find any reference to, the man thought his girlfriend was about to say one of the verboten words and knowing that the best defense is a good offense then shot her.  Tasteless humor aside, I would appreciate any link to this case anyone can find.

The most commonly used term for the fear of words is "logophobia." It's hard to find any interesting or informed commentary on the psychological aspect of this fear, instead people see it through a political lens as  a fear of free speech. It's shouldn't come to anyone as a surprise that words like "nigger" or "kike"  provoke a strong emotional response. Similarly, it stands to reason that the word "pain" itself as well as words associated with physical pain would dredge up  bad memories and associations. I'm far more interested in the idiosyncratic fears of random words. I've already written a blog about words that I hate, but in truth those words, at worst, are about as uncomfortable to me as slightly  loud music or a dog slobbering on me-I can cope. I am far more interested in people who have medical conditions or genuine phobias associated with certain words. There are some who claim that phobias of names, long Greek inspired words, and talking itself are extant. As one stupid blogger, I'm not qualified to speak on whether or not I think these are medical conditions, but I believe the fear to be real. So, I'm going to put the ball in your court: do you know where I could find the news article I mentioned earlier? Do you know of anyone who jumps out windows upon hearing the word "gazelle"? I'm searching!

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