I once met a girl who was frightened of bananas. She was the sort of girl that makes you clench your teeth being tiny, perfectly proportioned, exceedingly pretty and clever too. To add insult to injury – she was extremely nice. It was in our advanced French class. The third term. Most of us had followed the course for two terms and were getting there. Some spoke beautifully but were not too good at the grammar. Some had terrible accents but could express themselves like natives. Miss Perfect of course spoke and wrote like a Frenchwoman.
I can’t exactly remember why or how the subject of phobias came up. One day during an exercise, the point of which I no longer remember, we had to go round the class in turn and tell everyone about things we were frightened of. Miss P, I’ll call her Annie, had us all open mouthed with astonishment when she said she was frightened of bananas. I found that so endearing I completely changed my mind about her.
She was very convincing but I’m not sure everyone believed her. They should have done for there is indeed a known phobia. It’s called – you guessed it – bananaphobia. Bit disappointing really. You’d think they could have come up with a better name. I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about phobias – but recently a fellow member of Toastmasters introduced the subject into his highly entertaining speech. Among the phobias he mentioned was – wait for it -anatidaephobia – a fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.
I love it. It conjures up wonderful images of ducks lurking behind curtains or peering out from behind trees. Ducks in raincoats with the collars turned up. Or ducking (sorry) behind the wet fish counter in Sainsburys to avoid detection. I trawled the Internet. I found plenty of sites that listed anatidaephobia, many as if it were a real phobia. Sadly it isn’t – it comes from the talented Gary Larson’s cartoon series – The Far Side. I wish it had been real but I’m not surprised it’s made up. It’s rather reminiscent of the late, lamented James Thurber in its quirky humour.
For all the funny made-up phobias – anoraknophobia, for instance, of Wallace and Grommet fame – there are plenty of real phobias that strike most of us as amusing though I’m sure they are no joke to people who suffer from them. Imagine having ablutophobia and being scared to wash. Or unable to go to a party because of your globophobia, your fear of balloons. Or risking scurvy because lachanophobia stopped you eating vegetables. With a summer like ours pity the poor people who fear rain, a condition known as ombrophobia. And I for one would be very sad indeed if my phobia was ailurophobia – because I love cats.
While there are plenty of real phobias, many of them extremely strange like fear of string or rooms or hands, it’s the made up ones that are the most hilarious. And they have the added advantage of not risking running the risk of upsetting genuine sufferers. Luposlipaphobia is another from the wonderful Gary Larson. –fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor. But my favourite has to be the ducks. And for some unaccountable reason, the string.