Monday, January 31, 2011

Apple #504: Fear of Being Watched by a Duck

An article that's been getting passed around the internet lately is about Anatidaephobia, or the fear of being watched by a duck.  What has made people keep forwarding it is because on the same page is an ad for Aflac.  Get it?  You're reading about fear of being watched by a duck, and there's that omnipresent Aflac duck?  Just about makes you shudder, doesn't it?

The only problem is, anatidaephobia is made up.  By Gary Larson, in fact, in this cartoon:

(Cartoon by Gary Larson, sourced from Warbears)

The few dictionaries that list the word at all cite Gary Larson, as in the following definition:
anatidaephobia: nonce-word  the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you [coined by Gary Larson, The Far Side]

"Nonce" means that this word was coined for this one occasion only.  So it doesn't exist.

Maybe it's obvious to most people that all those articles getting passed around are extending the joke.   But I don't think it's obvious to everyone.  That original Associated Content article, for one, seems to take it pretty seriously:
As with all phobias, the person coping with Anatidaephobia has experienced a real-life trauma. For the anatidaephobic individual, this trauma most likely occurred during childhood.

Perhaps the individual was intensely frightened by some species of water fowl. Geese and swans are relatively well known for their aggressive tendencies and perhaps the anatidaephobic person was actually bitten or flapped at. Of course, the Far Side comics did little to minimize the fear of being watched by a duck.

While we may be tempted to smile at the memory of those comics or at the mental image of being watched by a duck, for the anatidaephobic person, that fear is uncontrollable. Whatever the cause, the anatidaephobic person can experience emotional turmoil and anxiety that is completely disruptive to daily functioning.

Sounds like the article of that author meant people to take it seriously, doesn't it?

The people who are members of the facebook group, however, Anatidaephobia -- the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you seem to be fully aware that it's a made up word.  Judging by the photos they've uploaded, they are thoroughly enjoying the joke.

These guys take the joke to its furthest extent, having produced a rather too-lengthy mockumentary about people who suffer from anatidaephobia and the therapist who promises to cure him.

Gary Larson made up another phobia: Luposlipophobia, or the fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor.

A site called English for All has an extensive list of phobias, the real and the made up.  Keanuphobia might be my favorite among the made-up ones.

Related entries: Mallard Ducks, Somebody's Watching You

Tammy Duffey, Anatidaephobia - The fear That You are Being Watched by a Duck, Associated Content, December 8, 2008
someecards, Greatest ad placement ever
BuzzFeed, Greatest ad placement ever
English for All, List of Phobias


  1. I love that stuffed duck sitting on top of the door early in the movie. I can't believe U Oregon hasn't taken this on and used it.

  2. Just love your article.I do continuously look over your web site for brand spanking new articles.I am recently acting on associate app does this look normal thats going awe-inspiring and special because of you 🙂


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