Some Odd Words

Doubtful but entertaining:

Several sources define vacansopapurosophobia as “fear of blank paper” — it’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it’s certainly a useful word.

I’ve also seen artiformologicalintactitudinarianisminist, “one who studies 4-5-letter Latin prefixes and suffixes.” I don’t have a source for that; it’s not in the OED either.

In Say It My Way, Willard R. Espy defines a cypripareuniaphile as “one who takes special pleasure in sexual intercourse with prostitutes” and acyanoblepsianite as “one who cannot distinguish the color blue.”

In By the Sword, his history of swordsmen, Richard Cohen defines tsujigiri as “to try out a new sword on a chance passerby.” Apparently that’s a real practice.

And one that is in the OED: mallemaroking is “the boisterous and drunken exchange of hospitality between sailors in extreme northern waters.”

(Thanks, Dave.)

Podcast Episode 106: The Popgun War

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USArmy_M114_howitzer.jpg

During wargames in Louisiana in September 1941, the U.S. Army found itself drawn into a tense firefight with an unseen enemy across the Cane River. The attacker turned out to be three boys with a toy cannon. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll revisit the Battle of Bermuda Bridge and the Prudhomme brothers’ account of their historic engagement.

We’ll also rhapsodize on guinea pigs and puzzle over some praiseworthy incompetence.

See full show notes …

In a Word

xenodochiophobia
n. fear of (or worry about) hotels

Art historian Bernard Berenson offered this word in his 1952 memoir Rumour and Reflection:

I invented it long ago to designate the sinking feeling that in my travels often overcame me: of fear lest the inn or hotel at which we were to lodge would be sordid, would not let me have the promised apartment; that my bedroom would have the wrong proportions, mulling or flattening me out of my normal shape and squeezing me out of my own way of breathing; that the lights would be glaring and no reading lamp by my bed; that there would be sharp or clattering sounds outside, or bad smells without or within. Motoring in the Vendee or Poitou, in Spain or Greece as evening darkened, tired or even exhausted, I would wish the destination farther and farther away, for fear of what I should find when I reached it.

When William Tazewell mentioned the word in a 1989 travel article in the New York Times, reader Louis Jay Herman wrote to add “a few more suggested contributions to the Hellenizing of the travel language”:

xenoiatrophobia
n. fear of having to cope with a foreign doctor

xenonosocomiophobia
n. fear of finding yourself in a foreign hospital

xenokleptophobia
n. fear of foreign pickpockets

hypselotimophobia
n. fear of high prices

And cacohydrophobia, loosely translatable as Can I drink what comes out of the tap in this joint?

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:My_Wife_and_My_Mother-in-Law.jpg

pentheraphobia

n. fear of one’s mother-in-law

Above: “My Wife and My Mother-in-Law,” from Puck, November 1915.

Asked what was the maximum punishment for bigamy, Lord Russell of Killowen said, “Two mothers-in-law.”

DCLXVI

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is fear of the number 666, which is linked to Satan and the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation.

Unfortunately, it’s rather hard to avoid. 666 is the sum of the squares of the first seven primes:

666 = 22 + 32 + 52 + 72 + 112 + 132 + 172

Also:

666 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 567 + 89

= 123 + 456 + 78 + 9

= 9 + 87 + 6 + 543 + 21

= 13 + 23 + 33 + 43 + 53 + 63 + 53 + 43 + 33 + 23 + 13

In 1989, after his second term as president, Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved to a new home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles. They had the address, 666 St. Cloud Road, changed to 668 St. Cloud Road.

Black Friday

Famous people born on Friday the 13th:

  • Don Adams
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Steve Buscemi
  • Fidel Castro
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
  • Georges Simenon

The fear of this date is called paraskavedekatriaphobia.