Hippophobia is the fear of horses. It derives from the classical Greek term for horses, hippos. It’s fairly straightforward in its derivation.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, on the other hand, has nothing to do with horses. Or monsters, for that matter. Much like the equine fear, however, a clue as to the target of the phobia is hidden within the name itself. In this case, it’s the ridiculous length of the word, counting out to 35 letters.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words. It’s rare; most people who encounter the term learn about it from trivia books because of the inherent irony. As one of the longest words in a standard dictionary, it is strikingly self-referential.
Why would anyone fear long words? Knowing that phobias aren’t typically rooted in reason, it becomes difficult to isolate the reason. But perhaps they were simply afraid of death, and they’d watched the Monty Python skit about Johan of Ulm, the German baroque composer.
Nobody likes to keel over while waiting for someone’s name to be pronounced.
Question of the night: What are some of your favorite lesser-used words?