ChloephobiaBefore we get to the fear of newspapers story, a brief introduction to a thoughtful word maven.

Michael Quinion in Britain runs an insightful word origins website called World Wide Words, which is a free newsletter that goes out by email and catalogs in witty and wise selections how the English language is forever changing.

“World Wide Words tries to record at least some part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new  words, word histories, the background to words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech,” Quinion says.

Some stats: his newsletter, in operation for over 17 years, goes out to 36,000 subscribers by email, plus thousands more through RSS, Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been getting the emails for a few years now and love it.

Now to the story at hand: In a recent newsletter, Quinion told readers how a Florida man emailed him the other day to ask about a new word he had come across called “chloephobia”, which, according to Quinion, ”seems to be the newest member of a vast class of names for irrational fears.”

In his witty way, he notes: “It’s not a morbid dislike of girls named Chloe but a fear of newspapers.”

According to Quinion’s sources and research, this term recently “appeared in the Daily Mail in Britain on January 27, 2014 and the story has since been widely reproduced [on social media]. The UK article claimed that one chloephobia sufferer’s problems began some 25 years ago ‘when she saw her mother jokily hit her father over the head with a newspaper’.”

Quinion says that the earliest example he has found so far “was in the Western Daily Press of Bristol in May of 2013 but the source and etymology of the word are obscure.”

Baffled, the word British word maven is still curious where the term came from and where else it might have appeared online or in print. No doubt, he will be hearing from some of his worldwide readers and they will offer suggestions and clues and Quinion will publish an update in the near future.

In the meantime, is this for real? Chloephobia? And in some future event, someone witnesses their mother jokily his their father over the head with an iPad or an iPhone, will a new slang term emerge for an irrational fear of this happening again in that person’s life?