Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: Can Unusually Long Words Trigger Fear In People?

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Are you afraid of long words

As strange as it may sound, the phobia of long words is real. There is N number of phobias that exist. We just don’t know about them because they haven’t been given any name yet. But even the ones we know are strange enough for even the most logical of people to question reality.

So with this said, let’s talk about ‘Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia’, or the fear of long words.

Humans can develop a phobia of the tiniest of things to the largest of things. There can be a lot of things that can make you anxious and uncomfortable. A friend of mine once told me that some words make her uncomfortable. I somehow guessed that she might have a phobia.

Once she described what kind of words scare her, I immediately understood that she has a fear of long words. The worst of it all was when I told her the name of her phobia and it didn’t go well! She freaked out on hearing the name itself.

That reaction made me search more about phobia. Here’s what I found…

What is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or Fear of Long Words?

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. People with this phobia are afraid of all the long and complex words. Ironically the name itself is a long word. Let’s break the word into parts first and understand its meaning…

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

  • ‘hippo’ means horse and ‘potam-os’ means a river (in Greek). Together these words make no sense but both of these things are long in size.
  • The word ‘Hippopotamine’ can be used for things that are large/long in nature according to the Oxford dictionary.
  • I know the word ‘hippopotamus’ is not leaving your mind. But when you think of its structural characteristics, a hippopotamus also has a long body structure. His feet aren’t that tall but his body is long!

The common thing in all these is the length!

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

  • ‘Monstr’ in Latin means something that’s monster-like or frightening.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

  • ‘Sesquippedalio’ is another Latin word that refers to something that is a foot and a half long.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

  • ‘Phobia’ came from the Greek word phobo which means having an irrational fear of a person, place or thing.

Also read: Fear vs. Phobia: What’s the Difference?

What’s the logic behind naming Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia so long?

Well, there is a shorter name for it too, sesquipedalophobia! Before I knew the real reason I was really angry at those who named the phobia of long words. I mean how can someone be so insensitive right? The name of your phobia itself will give you anxiety and stress. Mocking something so serious is not right. Do you have similar thoughts?

Let me clarify this for you, it has a little bit of satire in it but it’s not mockery. There is a purpose behind naming the phobia so long. The intention behind it was to reduce the fear associated with long words.

1. Firstly, whenever you tell someone about your phobia you will have to use the name. By saying and hearing a long word over and over again the anxiety and fear associated can come down a notch. It’s like facing your fear.

2. Secondly, to understand the word Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia you will have to break it down. Breaking down a long word into parts helps in reducing the fear. Because then you look at it as 3 or 4 smaller words clubbed together. This technique of breaking down can be practiced with other long words too.

Therefore, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is purposely designed in a way that it can help in reducing the intensity. There are many other phobias named using the same strategy.

Like Dodecaphobia, it is a fear of the number 12. Dodecaphobia is a 12 letter word. The fear of palindrome is named ‘Aibohphobia’, it is the fear of words/phrases that spell the same forward and backward (eg. madam).

Also read: Debunking Common Myths About Phobias

Causes and Symptoms of the Phobia of Long Words

The cause and symptoms may differ from person to person. We all react to different things differently. Similarly, a phobia has the ability to elicit different reactions in different individuals.

Some of the main causes can be

  • You can inherit a phobia from your family. The nature of your phobia may not be the same, but the tendency of developing an irrational fear can be genetic.
  • A traumatic event in the past. For example, someone being ridiculed in class for reading/spelling/understanding a long word wrong can develop Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
  • Educational background also has a role to play. If you did not come across long complex words while studying. It’s natural to fear something you have never come across. Unfortunately, there are some schools that fail to match up to the accepted standard of teaching, and results of which can be seen in students.

As far as symptoms are concerned, if you have Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, you may experience

Emotional symptoms

  • Irrational fear of long words
  • Anxiety and panic when there is an encounter with long words

Physical symptoms

  • Shallow breathing
  • Palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • You might also begin crying unstoppably

Is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia Treatable?

If you have read this far you must be wondering how this phobia can be treated. Fortunately, all kinds of phobias can be treated and so can be Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. There are two things that can help in the treatment. Medication and therapy!

I personally would recommend therapy because therapy attacks the root cause of the fear. Medication on the other hand can reduce the symptoms but will not completely eradicate the problem.

Therefore, talk to a professional about Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia and get the perfect treatment plan. It can be just therapy or a combination of medication and therapy.

I hope this blog helped you understand the fear of long words. If you found this blog interesting do share it with your friends and family.

Thanks for reading!

Take care and stay safe!

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