Weekend Reading: Irrational Fear of Mangled Greek

What caught my eye this week

This week I encountered the word nomophobia for the first time. I’m rather behind the times, since the word was coined in 2008 – and I admit it confused me, because I couldn’t figure out how ‘fear of rules or laws’ (my Greek is rusty, but it still works!) was relevant in the context of an article about the over-use of mobile devices in the classroom.

Of course, it turns out that nomophobia does not derive from the Greek nomos: at least, the version invented in 2008 doesn’t. No, this particular nomophobia is a contraction of ‘no-mobile-phone-phobia’, and it refers to the symptoms of anxiety, depression and panic experienced by people when deprived of a mobile phone or in an area where there is no signal.

Is it bad that my concern is more for the mangling of the Greek than for the rise of the ‘phobia’ itself?




Anyway, that prompted me to spend a happy hour rooting through the list of phobias with serious Greek names: and what lovely names they are! I’d like to develop a few of the more obscure ones myself, just so that I could use the words on a daily basis. Furthermore, the coinage of the Greek words often seems to validate the phobia itself. Take siderodromophobia, defined as ‘fear of rail travel’: that’s been beautifully cobbled together from the Greek, and literally means something like ‘the fear of an iron racecourse’. Put like that, it seems perfectly rational to fear rail travel. [But in an awkward linguistic twist, we also have the term siderophobia, used to mean ‘fear of stars’, from the Latin sidus (constellation) rather than the Greek sideros (iron). Inventing a phobia name is a complex and controversial business.]

Sadly, some phobias are a disappointment from a linguistic point of view, like telephonophobia and Americophobia. But for every boring electrophobia, there’s a wonderful word like kakorrhaphiaphobia, which is used to mean ‘fear of failure’, but which really comes closer to meaning ‘fear of a contrivance of ill’; again, the Greek makes it seem like a pretty reasonable fear!

I’m now wondering whether to start work on my own list of phobias. It might be a challenge to find some Greek for ‘fear of your computer crashing just before your assignment is due’, but I could probably manage something for ‘fear of being laughed at for pronouncing Greek names incorrectly’, or ‘fear of obscure uses of the dative’…!



Around the Web this week…


From Classical Studies Support

OU student? Prepare for next year by joining an academic library through SCONUL – Classical Studies Support



Vindolanda horseshoes – BBC 

An ancient Greek shipwreck – Greek Reporter 

… and a Roman shipwreck too – TASS 

Greek statues discovered in Turkey – Daily Sabah 

Identifying and repatriating antiquities – The Guardian 


Comment and opinion

Hippolytus and Phaedra – Classical Inquiries 

On the challenge of organising your personal library – A Don’s Life 

The Iliad in Northern Ireland? – The Guardian 

The life of a retired classicist – The Retiring Academic 

The distinctive features of Etruscan art – Classical Wisdom Weekly 

Race, ethnicity and revisionism in Classics – RFK Classics 

On the Roman Dead exhibition in London – Caroline Lawrence 

Join the debate about ‘theory’ – Sententiae Antiquae 

Case study of translation problems – Emily Wilson on Twitter 

Linking Roman roads to modern prosperity – The Washington Post 

Antony and Aristotle – The Edithorial 

Aristotle as ‘highbrow self-help’? – The Guardian 

On research and getting turned around – A Don’s Life 

Filming for BBC 2 – Michael Scott

Teaching Latin in primary schools – The Classical Association 

…and bringing Virgil to life in high schools – Society for Classical Studies 

Watch out for those centurions! – The Times 

Monuments and thinking critically – Twitter Moments 

Want to do well in exams? Put the laptop away – Inside Higher Ed 

Dead or dormant? On learning Latin – Classical Fix  [as the rhyme goes: Latin’s a dead language,/ As dead as dead can be./ It killed the ancient Romans/ and now it’s killing me.’]


Podcasts, videos and other media

Discussing Boudicca – BBC Radio 4 

Amazing drone tour of Pompeii – Steven Ellis on Twitter 

Discussion of women who ‘rocked the ancient world’ – Zocalo 

Teenagers in ancient Rome – TED-Ed 

A new(ish) set of Art History videos – The Open University [there’s one on Laocoon, and an interesting discussion of a plaquette of Apollo and Marsyas… among other great things!]



Off our beat

Which British masterpiece are you? – The Royal Academy [and since I’m sure you want to know, I can reveal that I’m a Turner, and I’ve been told ‘it’s never too early to start cultivating your reputation as an eccentric, anarchic, slightly bonkers genius’…!]


And finally…

Not sure even I could cope with this on my wall…!


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