Fear of Friday the 13th and other phobias

The superstition that Friday the 13th brings bad luck is so widespread in Western countries that the English language has not one, but two words for ‘fear of Friday the 13th’. Now I say “English language”, but the words in question look as un-English as they come:

paraskavedekatriaphobia: a compound made up of borrowings < Greek παρασκευή ‘Friday’ + δεκατρείς ‘thirteen’ + ϕοβία ‘fear’;

friggatriskaidekaphobia < Frigg (the Norse Goddess whom Friday is named after) + triskaidekaphobia (< τρεῖσκαιδεκα, another way to express ‘thirteen’ in Greek + ϕοβία ‘fear’).

While it seems very practical to be able to express this concept with a single word, I don’t really think these terms are going to catch on soon… (I think being able to pronounce them is a crucial first step requiring more time and effort than most people – including myself – are willing to put in). However, I do appreciate this type of morphological creativity which also spawned hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, ‘fear of the number 666’.

The possibilities of stringing together Ancient Greek borrowings seem endless but the question is how many of these fantastic creations actually make it into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). A quick search for *phobia results in 128 dictionary entries, including one for the suffix –phobia which they say was borrowed from Greek via Latin: “post-classical Latin -phobia (in e.g. hydrophobia ‘fear of water’) < Hellenistic Greek ϕοβία”.

The list includes some familiar, widely-used items such as claustrophobia (fear of confined places) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders), the latter of which reminds me of the 90s horror film of the same name, and leaves me wondering if usage of the term increased after millions of movie-goers had been exposed to (and possibly traumatized by) a plague of giant spiders.

Other –phobia entries in the OED are more obscure, and their meanings are often opaque at first sight due to the fact that the compounds are entirely made up of Latin or Greek elements, like ergophobia, ‘fear of work’ (from Greek ἔργον ‘work’). A particular one that catches my eye is ailurophobia, ‘intense fear of or aversion to cats’, simply because I am a big fan of cats (this is the understatement of the year; I know 2017 has only just begun, but this is it).

One of the first attestations of ailurophobia given in the OED is quite hilarious, though:

1905   A. Lang in Morning Post 16 June 4/3   Finding a lady, rather ailurophobic, in a low dress at dinner Tippoo suddenly leaped up and alighted on her neck. He was never so friendly with non-ailurophobes.

(Yes, they do that!)

I am relieved to find some –phobia compounds that I can immediately understand because they combine with English nouns: computer phobia, commitment phobia (note the space between the words) and germophobia (with a connective –o-).

Going through the OED I notice that the words that started this quest, paraskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia, are not listed at all, and that they are probably not the only missing –phobias. My suspicion is confirmed when I stumble on a little gem called The Phobia List which contains hundreds of –phobias that I have never even heard of, including weirdly specific ones, like pteronophobia, ‘fear of being tickled by feathers’ and arachibutyrophobia, ‘fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth’.

Some phobias actually make a lot of sense when you think about it, such as albuminurophobia, ‘fear of kidney disease’ or rhabdophobia, ‘fear of being severely punished or beaten by a rod, or of being severely criticized’. Others seem to be a bit random: consecotaleophobia, ‘fear of chopsticks’, oenophobia, ‘fear of wines’ and siderodromophobia, ‘fear of railways or railway travel’ (although the latter must be a relatively common condition since it is listed in the OED!).

On a more personal note, I’m glad that this quest has taught me a term to explain why I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning (psychrophobia), and I think that my mother will be happy when I tell her that she is not the only person in the world suffering from ranidaphobia.

Eline van der Veken
Editor-in-chief of Brill’s Linguistic Bibliography


Friday the 13th: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/world/friday-13

Oxford English Dictionary: http://www.oed.com/

The Phobia List: http://phobialist.com/






Linguistic hoarding: the making of LB 2015

Why is it that the Linguistic Bibliography for the year 2015 was published in 2016 and not in 2015?

The yearbook of the Linguistic Bibliography (LB) appears in the year after the date on the cover because we need extra time to collect as many bibliographical entries as we can. Sometimes we have to wait for information about publications to become available at publisher’s websites or university libraries. We also need to give contributing bibliographers, publishers and journal editors enough time to send us their data. Data collection usually ends in the summer, after which the production process starts. After proofreading, several correction rounds, creating the frontmatter and indexes, the yearbook is off to the printer!

How did you collect 20,486 bibliographical entries over the past year?

Bibliographical descriptions are collected with the indispensable help of around forty contributing bibliographers from around the world. The contributors and the editorial team based in Leiden locate the latest publications on linguistics, analyze and annotate them, and add them to the database.

The volume for 2015 is actually an extract from the database; some bibliographical entries do not appear in the book, but can be found in the online database (which means that we collected even more than 20,486 entries during the past year!). Entries that typically appear online only are publications older than five years, student-oriented textbooks and online resources.

Where do you find linguistic publications?

A number of publishers and journal editors send their latest books and journal issues on language and linguistics to the editorial office, to make sure that they are indexed in LB. This is extremely helpful! Fortunately, nowadays most publications are accessible online, but sometimes it is necessary to make trips to university libraries, and some contributors even travel abroad to get certain items.

What kind of publications are included in LB?

We index all publications on theoretical linguistics and we pay special attention to publications on lesser-studied languages. Especially thanks to the help of our contributors we are able to include data on publications that would otherwise be very hard to access. Publication types in LB include journal articles, monographs, edited books, individual articles/chapters from edited books, reviews, dissertations, and online resources (databases, corpora).

Which publications are rejected for indexation in LB?

The LB is a very specialized bibliography of theoretical linguistics, which means that the publications it contains are hand-picked, and that those falling outside of the bibliography’s scope are not recorded in LB. It often happens that journals are partially indexed, for example, we select only linguistic articles from the journal Science, and do not index this journal as a whole. The same goes for the more language-oriented journals: articles on literature, culture, or purely applied linguistics (pedagogy, translation studies) are not indexed. However, we tend to make exceptions for research on lesser-studied languages: if a language learning coursebook is one of the few resources available for a certain endangered language, we will make sure to record it.

Also, we do our best to collect only high quality, original research. While the appearance of more and more open access journals opens up many new opportunities for the linguistic research community, unfortunately we need to beware of predatory open access journals and “fake” publishers with unethical practices. Needless to say, these journals do not make the cut.

What if my publication has not been indexed?!

If you cannot find your publication in the yearbook or the online database, it does not necessarily mean that it was rejected for inclusion. Assuming that the book or article falls within the scope of LB, it is most likely that the omission was unintentional and due to lack of detailed information or time to find it before the print volume’s deadline. You can help us index your publications by sending the details to lb@brill.com. If you would like to provide us with bibliographical information about important publications in your field on a more regular basis, you may consider becoming a bibliographer. Your help would be very much appreciated!

What is next?

We are currently collecting publications from 2016 for the next LB yearbook! The volume won’t come out until after the summer of 2017, but new bibliographical entries are added to the online database monthly.

We look forward to recording your latest linguistic writings!

Eline van der Veken
Editor of Brill’s Linguistic Bibliography

Linguistic Bibliography for the year 2015 covers publications on language and linguistics from 2015 as well as recent publications from previous years that had not been indexed until now. The yearbook contains a total of 20,486 entries and features indexes of names, languages and subjects. All of the bibliographical references collected in the yearbook for 2015 are digitally available in Linguistic Bibliography Online.