Tag Archives: word


Last night I gardened by the light of the waxing gibbous and thought about Neptune. It was the planet’s birthday yesterday, after all. So while I planted herbs by moonlight and Bubo soared and swooped through the dark sky, I realized that so many people don’t enjoy the dark night like I do.

These folks suffer from nyctophobia. Are you one of them?

Nyctophobia (pronounced nik-tuh-FOH-bee-uh) is a noun meaning an irrational fear of the night or darkness. It stems from the Greek nycto (night) + phobia (fear).

Nyctophobia is rather common in children, and most folks grow out of it. Some postulate that a subtle fear of the dark could be evolutionary in nature, since many predators hunt in the night. Those folks who find the dark so frightening that they avoid leaving their homes at night suffer from severe nyctophobia.

Interesting note: a related word in English is the medical term nyctalopia – a condition characterized by an inability to see when it is night or dark. I had a great uncle who suffered from nyctalopia. I often wondered if it’s because he spent an awful lot of time around Tesla and his coils. Always wear protective eye-wear, my pets. Safety first.

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Last night it sounded as though a great army were running through my walls. I’m accustomed to the usual scrapes and scratches this old house produces; I know that there are creatures who live here just beyond my sight and I’m ok with that. The rodents tend to stay away since Bubo has a remarkable appetite and the bats tend to stay nearer to the attic in the eaves.

These noises were new and different and I am still puzzled as to who my new house guests could be. Or what they could be.

Which brings me to this Wednesday’s Word.

Myomancy [mye-uh-man-see] is a noun originating from the Greek for mouse. It is divination by the movements of mice.

Before you throw up your arms and laugh, think about it. Is it not completely logical to study and follow the patterns of our little creatures, since certain voles have an ability to anticipate earthquakes and field mice have been known to change their behaviors in anticipation of lean or abundant harvests?

There are numerous ancient Greek and Roman stories alluding to major generals taking cues from mice and rats; if one’s shoelaces were chewed by mice, for instance, you’d best not go into battle (for a number of reasons, I’m sure).

Honestly, our scientists today study mice and rats even more fervently than history’s most avid myomancer.

As do most New York City subway riders.

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This evening I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner aloud to the jellyfish while Bubo dropped bits of brine shrimp into their tank. It lent a marvelous air to the usual feeding ritual, and while Bubo prefers T.S. Eliot, I was in the mood for some Coleridge. We are great lovers of poetry, Bubo and I, therefore we are not musophobists.

Musophobist is a noun meaning a person who dislikes or mistrusts poetry.

A.C. Swinburne wrote in 1880 “But, be it said with leave of our most illustrious Musophobist, they are equalled at their best if not excelled [etc.].”

Odd, isn’t it, that there should still be musophobists scampering about? I can’t imagine mistrusting poetry. Now, mistrusting a musophobist, that I can understand. Perhaps I can find that word in one my old dictionaries.

Unless you know the word for that. I’m sure you do. You’re rather clever.

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I would tell you what I am terrified of, but then my secret would be out. Instead I will tell you about one of my favorite nouns.

Agowilt is a sickening or sudden fear.

Many people experience this when they’re very high up. Or covered in snakes.

These, of course, are not causes of agowilt for me.

But you knew that, didn’t you?

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