words you know exist but you wonder why.

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words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby ZLVT » Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:56 pm UTC

I've heard of a lot of words which just make you stop and think, "who the hell needs a word for that?" some of the ones I know:

Defenstrate - who needs a word for "to throw out of a window"?
Decimate - who needs a word for "to kill every tenth"?
the japanese have a word for "to kill with silent contempt". I don't know what it is but who needs a word for "to kill with silent contempt"?
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:21 pm UTC

In English, we don't have a word for kill every tenth, we have a word that meant that at one point, but due to not actually needing it, we changed the meaning. Also, it wasn't only for killing a tenth. It could also be used for taxing or tithing one-tenth, which seems a much more widely usable idea.

You've got me with defenestrate, though. :-)

The Japanese word doesn't surprise me, because it probably comes from feudal Japan, where such an idea was more significant and useful, probably.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:47 pm UTC

黙殺 (mokusatsu) - ignoring; shelving; smothering; treating with silent contempt; withholding comment

It's not literally "kill with silent comtempt". English "ignore completely" seems to work - or maybe "blank".

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby thicknavyrain » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:12 pm UTC

chaponer in french means to stick your hand up a chicken's anus/egg laying orifice (ca'n't remember what the technical term is) to see if it is laying an egg. Seriously, WHO the hell needs that word?

WARNING: I heard this on QI, if I am wrong on this, PLEASE correct me on that...
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:29 pm UTC

thicknavyrain wrote:WARNING: I heard this on QI


Don't believe anything you hear on QI.

chapon is "capon", that is a castrated chicken, and chaponner is "caponize", that is "castrate"

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Gaydar2000SE » Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:19 pm UTC

Also 'autodefenistrate' is even better, it means 'to throw oneself out of a window'.

The reason it's in English is because in Rome there was an assassin type, the defenistrator, he would just sneak up on you, and throw you out of your window. From 'defenistrare', 'to throw out of the window', from 'de' 'down from', 'fenister' (stem fenistr) 'window' and the common first conjugation to make new verbs usually carrying some 'doing a noun' semantics. As in 'down-from-a-window-er', the practice survived and the word still exists.
^ :/

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Threb » Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:00 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:Defenstrate - who needs a word for "to throw out of a window"?


I was thinking this as I clicked the thread link.

Gaydar2000SE wrote:Also 'autodefenistrate' is even better, it means 'to throw oneself out of a window'.

The reason it's in English is because in Rome there was an assassin type, the defenistrator, he would just sneak up on you, and throw you out of your window. From 'defenistrare', 'to throw out of the window', from 'de' 'down from', 'fenister' (stem fenistr) 'window' and the common first conjugation to make new verbs usually carrying some 'doing a noun' semantics. As in 'down-from-a-window-er', the practice survived and the word still exists.



Huh. I can see where German "Fenster" (window) must have come from.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:40 pm UTC

Gaydar2000SE wrote:The reason it's in English is because in Rome there was an assassin type, the defenistrator, he would just sneak up on you, and throw you out of your window.


Don't believe anything you hear on QI.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby 6453893 » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:43 pm UTC

Syzygy.

Why?

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Gaydar2000SE » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
Gaydar2000SE wrote:The reason it's in English is because in Rome there was an assassin type, the defenistrator, he would just sneak up on you, and throw you out of your window.


Don't believe anything you hear on QI.
I have never watched QI in my life, this is because I am not British. Though it seems the first occurrence of the word was in the defenistrations of prague, which is strange, as I could've sworn the word just resurfaced then and my classical culture classes in secondary school talked about this, even giving some citations containing the verb.


Threb wrote:Huh. I can see where German "Fenster" (window) must have come from.
In this case, yes, but for instance 'nebel' does not come from 'nebula', rather they came from a common root in some language spoken by some people in Persia 4000 years back. One of group became a bunch of barbarians who ate their own shit in the north and the others became a thriving and culturally rich civilization with domus, templa marmoris bella et praesidentes senati.


The most epic word in the English language though is 'strive', as there was an Old English verb 'strifan', that one died out, but there also was a Dutch verb 'strifan' (modern Dutch 'strijven'), that Dutch one with the same meaning came as a loan to French and finally back into English gaining its original meaning. Even stranger is that the old English verb was a strong verb, and some other verbs of its class like drifan (to drive) and difan (to dive) and ridan (to ride) did survive. The loan verb 'to strive' originally was weak (strive, strived strived) but by analogy of those other verbs became strong again in its original class (strive, strove, striven) as in (ride, rode, ridden) and (drive, drove, driven)
^ :/

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:52 am UTC

Gaydar2000SE wrote:The most epic word in the English language though is 'strive', as there was an Old English verb 'strifan', that one died out, but there also was a Dutch verb 'strifan' (modern Dutch 'strijven'), that Dutch one with the same meaning came as a loan to French and finally back into English gaining its original meaning. Even stranger is that the old English verb was a strong verb, and some other verbs of its class like drifan (to drive) and difan (to dive) and ridan (to ride) did survive. The loan verb 'to strive' originally was weak (strive, strived strived) but by analogy of those other verbs became strong again in its original class (strive, strove, striven) as in (ride, rode, ridden) and (drive, drove, driven)


The reason I mentioned QI is because I don't know where you're getting this stuff. There is no Old English verb strifan as far as I can tell. The OED gives two possible sources for Old French estriver - Proto-Germanic *strīdan "to fight" or *strīban "to struggle": "Both explanations present some unsolved difficulties; the former is more satisfactory with regard to sense, but the notions of ‘conflict’ and ‘endeavour’ easily pass the one into the other."

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Gaydar2000SE » Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:04 am UTC

goofy wrote:
Gaydar2000SE wrote:The most epic word in the English language though is 'strive', as there was an Old English verb 'strifan', that one died out, but there also was a Dutch verb 'strifan' (modern Dutch 'strijven'), that Dutch one with the same meaning came as a loan to French and finally back into English gaining its original meaning. Even stranger is that the old English verb was a strong verb, and some other verbs of its class like drifan (to drive) and difan (to dive) and ridan (to ride) did survive. The loan verb 'to strive' originally was weak (strive, strived strived) but by analogy of those other verbs became strong again in its original class (strive, strove, striven) as in (ride, rode, ridden) and (drive, drove, driven)


The reason I mentioned QI is because I don't know where you're getting this stuff. There is no Old English verb strifan as far as I can tell. The OED gives two possible sources for Old French estriver - Proto-Germanic *strīdan "to fight" or *strīban "to struggle": "Both explanations present some unsolved difficulties; the former is more satisfactory with regard to sense, but the notions of ‘conflict’ and ‘endeavour’ easily pass the one into the other."
Striban became strifan in Old English I believe, Proto Germanic striban to Old English strifan sounds as what one expects. Striban of course became modern Dutch strijven, also what one expects. It died out quite early in the Old English period though. 'A Guide to old English' by whatever'stherenames eight edition I believe lists the former explanation, neglects the latter and adds that the verb got into contact with French via Old Franconian, makes enough sense as French wasn't really a language yet during Proto Germanic and the Anglo-Frisian and Frankish sound shifts of b > v had already been undertaken during the time of old French. Explaining the 'v' in the French word as French, by my knowledge, never had such a sound shift from Latin, a loan from old Frankish instead of directly from Proto Germanic seems conceivable at the least.

Also, Etymonline is also not the best source, it's of course still a site maintained by one person, there are some things on that site which I would consider contestable myself.
^ :/

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:47 am UTC

You're right that Old English strifan is the expected cognate of Dutch strijven, but there is no such verb strifan attested in Bosworth and Toller or the OED. Or can you provide a reference?

By OED I mean Oxford English Dictionary, not Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Gaydar2000SE » Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:13 am UTC

goofy wrote:You're right that Old English strifan is the expected cognate of Dutch strijven, but there is no such verb strifan attested in Old English. Or can you provide a reference?
Google's dangerously low on it, might have to look it up on what page it named that. Could also be that it died out that soon that it never made it into the 659+ period.

goofy wrote:By OED I mean Oxford English Dictionary, not Online Etymology Dictionary.
It was a guess, they both list the same though, so I guess the latter got it from the former.
^ :/

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:53 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:In English, we don't have a word for kill every tenth, we have a word that meant that at one point, but due to not actually needing it, we changed the meaning. Also, it wasn't only for killing a tenth. It could also be used for taxing or tithing one-tenth, which seems a much more widely usable idea.


but in latin the word really did mean kill every tenth as it was a common punishment for a century which showed cowardice. not sure if it had other meanings though as my latin dictionary is probbaly piled beneath the greek german french and persian dictionaries.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Thu Jun 25, 2009 4:00 am UTC

ZLVT wrote:but in latin the word really did mean kill every tenth as it was a common punishment for a century which showed cowardice. not sure if it had other meanings though as my latin dictionary is probbaly piled beneath the greek german french and persian dictionaries.


decimo:

To select by lot every tenth man for punishment
To cause to pay tithes, to collect tithes
To select the tenth part as an offering, to pay tithes


But in English:

The only sense that's ever been common in English is the figurative 'to destroy a great number, proportion, or part of', first found in the mid seventeenth century. Despite repeated claims that this sense is erroneous, on the grounds that decimate should only refer to a destruction of one-tenth, that is how the word is used. In fact, it seems to be the only way the word is used; despite the insistence of various usage critics, a real example of decimate meaning 'to destroy one-tenth of' has never to my knowledge been found in actual running text.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Gaydar2000SE » Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:12 am UTC

Latin has such quirky verbs. I kind 'paedico' also an excellent one if one looks at the structure. 'I childish'?,

stranger is though that Dutch has verbs with one syllable long stems for 'to perform fellatio on x' and 'to perform cunnilingus on x' and 'to perform analingus on x' where x is the direct object that all appear at first glance to be unmotivated words.
^ :/

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:15 am UTC

the dutch word for to give head to is "pijpen" /pajpə/ meaning to pipe (no real meaning in dutch to my knowledge), but it's come more from slang than anything else if I remember correctly. the stem "pijp" just means a pipe, both the plumbing kind and the smoking kind.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Grop » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:23 am UTC

I think the word defenestration exists mostly because otherwise, the defenestrations of Prague would have a really heavy name.

I also think it makes much sense to have a verb for giving head :).

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby jaap » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:33 am UTC

Grop wrote:I also think it makes much sense to have a verb for giving head :).

Yes, like transitive "blow". Dutch is not at all special in that regard.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:14 pm UTC

Nor is English, where it's "fellate"...
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby aurumelectrum13 » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:57 pm UTC

Tyrotoxism - to be poisoned by cheese.

Erinaceous - like a hedgehog

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:43 pm UTC

Grop wrote:I think the word defenestration exists mostly because otherwise, the defenestrations of Prague would have a really heavy name.

Yeah, defenestrate was the word for today from wordsmith.org, which says that it was indeed the Defenestration of Prague that inspired that word.

Here is a LEGO sculpture of it.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Alcas » Mon Jul 06, 2009 11:35 pm UTC

The words that really make me think "Who the hell needs a word for that?" are the words that mean the same thing as a much simpler word.

Like "infundibuliform." What kind of pompous asshole would say "infundibuliform" when he could just say "funnel-shaped"?
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Rheum » Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:13 am UTC

Alcas wrote:The words that really make me think "Who the hell needs a word for that?" are the words that mean the same thing as a much simpler word.

Like "infundibuliform." What kind of pompous asshole would say "infundibuliform" when he could just say "funnel-shaped"?


Infundibuliform is a much more lovelier term than funnel-shaped. :3

The only problem is once we have incorporated these pointless words into our idiolect, can we be bothered remember when to use them? And if we can't be bothered to use them, are they redundant?

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby epeolatrist » Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:19 am UTC

Why do we have certain words? Because we speak English and that's what makes English awesome. You can be more descriptive in English than you can in (dare I say?) any other language. We have so many different shades of meaning for the same thing and so many ways to vary said shade that you can describe virtually anything with words.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Fri Jul 10, 2009 1:14 pm UTC

epeolatrist wrote:Why do we have certain words? Because we speak English and that's what makes English awesome. You can be more descriptive in English than you can in (dare I say?) any other language.


"All human languages are equal in complexity and expressive power" - any intro linguistics textbook

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby McLiarpants » Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:30 pm UTC

aurumelectrum13 wrote:Tyrotoxism - to be poisoned by cheese.


God, I hate cheese.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby LDJosh » Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:25 pm UTC

I don't know why we need both Flammable and Inflammable.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby jaap » Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:42 pm UTC

LDJosh wrote:I don't know why we need both Flammable and Inflammable.


Am I the only one who makes a slight distinction between the two?
Flammable=easy to burn
Inflammable=easy to catch fire
For example magnesium is flammable but not very inflammable.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby smw543 » Sat Jul 11, 2009 7:08 am UTC

goofy wrote:
epeolatrist wrote:Why do we have certain words? Because we speak English and that's what makes English awesome. You can be more descriptive in English than you can in (dare I say?) any other language.

"All human languages are equal in complexity and expressive power" - any intro linguistics textbook

They just say that so the other languages won't feel bad.

My contribution: terpsichorean (from the Greek muse Terpsichore; it would be a good word if anyone actually knew it.)
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Sharlos » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:21 am UTC

goofy wrote:
epeolatrist wrote:Why do we have certain words? Because we speak English and that's what makes English awesome. You can be more descriptive in English than you can in (dare I say?) any other language.


"All human languages are equal in complexity and expressive power" - any intro linguistics textbook

That's just incorrect, there are many situations where one language has a word/method of describing something that other languages lack, for example, one south American tribe only has words for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 'lots'. Hardly equal.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Sun Jul 12, 2009 3:10 pm UTC

Sharlos wrote:
goofy wrote:"All human languages are equal in complexity and expressive power" - any intro linguistics textbook

That's just incorrect, there are many situations where one language has a word/method of describing something that other languages lack, for example, one south American tribe only has words for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 'lots'. Hardly equal.


Language is more than just a bunch of words. Yes, a single word in one language is rarely translatable into a single word in another language. But a concept that can be expressed in one language can be expressed in all languages. All languages are spoken by humans, after all. We can put words together into phrases and clauses to create the meanings that we need. English has no single word for "descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow" but I just described it no problem.

The language you mention is Pirahã. Altho Pirahã lacks words for numbers, this doesn't mean that it is somehow intrinsically impossible for Pirahã speakers to talk about numbers if they felt the need to do so. Until about a hundred years ago, our language and culture lacked the words and ideas needed to deal with the evaluation and comparison of sampled properties of groups. Nowadays, we have the language to deal with numerical properties of representative samples. Our world changed, so our language changed.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby ZLVT » Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:22 pm UTC

piraha has only the numbers for 1 and 2 in fact and they do have problems counting. That is to say, they can't. From my understanding they can't express the difference between 6 fish and 9 fish. Anyway, although you're correct in saying that anything can be expressed in any language (with the possible exception of the piraha numbers thing) the question is how easily can it be done? "descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow" can be done but it's huge, so no one would ever use it. Imagine discussing tax returns in toki pona. They /can/ but they just won't do it. English can express a lot of formalities but in Japanese the distinctions are so much easier to make so I would say Japanese is more expressive in terms of formality than English.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 12, 2009 7:04 pm UTC

Yeah, but the point is that, overall, there's no one language that's more expressive than the others.

Sure, pick any particular concept, and you'll find that some languages can express it more easily than others, but that doesn't mean those languages are actually more expressive overall.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Angel on the Steps » Sun Jul 12, 2009 7:46 pm UTC

Closer to the topic, can someone please give me one good reason why we need specific names for most phobias? A few phobias certainly have descriptive power, but is anyone really going to use triskaidekaphobia (let alone its sibling, paraskavedekatriaphobia) as opposed to an English description of that fear? It just seems to be a pointless label. (There's something like that for collectors as well, and maybe a few other domains)

Oh, and can I nominate avant-garde? I can understand why that one managed to carve itself a niche against vanguard, but it seems so gratuitous...

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby goofy » Sun Jul 12, 2009 8:36 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yeah, but the point is that, overall, there's no one language that's more expressive than the others.

Sure, pick any particular concept, and you'll find that some languages can express it more easily than others, but that doesn't mean those languages are actually more expressive overall.


That's exactly it.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby Sizik » Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:24 am UTC

Angel on the Steps wrote:Closer to the topic, can someone please give me one good reason why we need specific names for most phobias? A few phobias certainly have descriptive power, but is anyone really going to use triskaidekaphobia (let alone its sibling, paraskavedekatriaphobia) as opposed to an English description of that fear? It just seems to be a pointless label. (There's something like that for collectors as well, and maybe a few other domains)


Probably so we can distinguish between someone who's afraid of spiders and someone who's REALLY afraid of spiders.
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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby 6453893 » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:58 am UTC

Angel on the Steps wrote:Closer to the topic, can someone please give me one good reason why we need specific names for most phobias?


A phobia is much more severe than a simple fear. Fears can be overcome and outgrown. Most of us were afraid of heights as children, perhaps many of us still are. But we can overcome this fear when we need to get up on a ladder or want to visit the Grand Canyon. A phobia is disabling and insurmountable (without the use of therapy/drugs). Maybe I'm afraid of the number 13, and working on the 13th floor gives me the creeps. But I can hear and see the number without cringing or screaming, which means I am sufficiently different from a triskadecaphobic to warrant two distinct terms.

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Re: words you know exist but you wonder why.

Postby AVbd » Mon Jul 13, 2009 3:07 pm UTC

Angel on the Steps wrote:Closer to the topic, can someone please give me one good reason why we need specific names for most phobias? A few phobias certainly have descriptive power, but is anyone really going to use triskaidekaphobia (let alone its sibling, paraskavedekatriaphobia) as opposed to an English description of that fear? It just seems to be a pointless label. (There's something like that for collectors as well, and maybe a few other domains)

I was under the impression that a lot of those phobia names were invented as jokes, and then picked up and misinterpreted as real phobia names by other people, who then remark about how strange it is that we have words for these things. It's much like those supposed "longest" words in the English language that are never actually used.
Sizik wrote:[It's p]robably so we can distinguish between someone who's afraid of spiders and someone who's REALLY afraid of spiders.

"Phobia of X" would do the trick. The point was why do we need specific words for many phobias.


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