Friday, June 18, 2010
Coulrophobia is abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns....The prefix "coulro=" comes from the Ancient Greek κωλοβαθριστής (kōlobathristēs), "one who goes on stilts".Questions arise:
- Whence comes the r after the l?
- Why is Greek omega transliterated as English ou?
- Why is -phobia attached to only the beginning of the Greek word?
No ancient Greek word starts with κουλρο- (koulro-), and no other English word starts with coulro-. It's a meaningless prefix, so far as I can tell, and the word coulrophobia should be avoided.
According to Liddell-Scott-Jones, κωλοβαθριστής is a rare word, occurring only in Hesychius. It and its rare cousin κωλόβαθρον (kōlóbathron = stilt) apparently come from κῶλον (kōlon = limb, member).
The standard ancient Greek word for clown is γελωτοποιός (gelōtopoiós, literally laughter-maker), e.g. Xenophon, Symposium 1.11, etc. See S.C. Woodhouse, English-Greek Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Attic Language (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1910), s.vv. buffoon, clown, and jester. Woodhouse s.v. buffoon also gives βωμόλοχος (bōmólochos) as a possibility.
If psychobabble needs a sesquipedalian word for abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns, gelotopoiophobia or bomolochophobia would be better than coulrophobia.