Ophidiophobes, beware! You might want to stop reading right now. In fact, given the title of this post, I imagine you probably already have. But for anyone who’s still with me, first things first: is “ophidiophobe” not an awesome word?
In case you’ve never heard it before – and I confess I had not, until today – it means a person who has “an abnormal fear of snakes.” A person who (according to the oracle of our age, Wikipedia) “would not only fear them when in live contact but also dreads to think about them or even see them on TV or in pictures.”
I have my friend Jim Withers to thank for this latest addition to my vocabulary. Jim is himself an ophidiophobe, and he had some interesting things to say on the subject in a comment on last night’s post about the pair of garter snakes that Raymond and I recently met in the Manse’s perennial garden. (And because Jim was/is [he’s retired] one of the world’s great copy editors, I knew I could safely copy and paste the word from his comment into this new post, without having to check the spelling.)
Another ophidiophobe is our Madoc friend Brenda, author of the fresh new blog Right On the Doorstep, which I wrote about here. She used the topic as a post today in response to my yarn about Mr. and Mrs. Manse Snake – probably choosing not to post her thoughts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse because she couldn’t stand to spend any time in a place where there were snake visuals. (I had a couple of little videos of our friendly snakes.) Brenda describes her ophidiophobia as “my can’t-even-turn-the-page-of-a-book-when-I-know-there’s-a-picture-of-a-snake fear.” And I know what she’s talking about, because my sainted mother is the same way. Garter snakes like the ones that Raymond and I came upon were quite common around the Manse when my family lived there back in my childhood, and you can just imagine how enthused my ophidiophobe mother was about that. (Fortunately, because she wants nothing to do with “the computer,” as she calls it, she doesn’t read this blog. If she were to see last night’s post, or this one, she’d probably never come visit us at the Manse again.)
Anyway, let’s move on from the abnormal fear of snakes to the topic of “other kinds of snakes to be found in Queensborough.”
This train of thought was prompted by another comment on last night’s post, from Queensborough resident Marykay. She stirred all kinds of childhood memories with this rather chilling sentence: “It is the black snakes you have to worry about!”
Whoah! That sentence took me right back to when I was a six- or seven-year-old, listening to tales from the “big kids” in Queensborough about the snakes that would sometimes show up when one was swimming in the Black River, which runs through our village. In the stories the snakes were always huge and black, although I’m not sure now whether we called them black snakes or water snakes. (It could well be the latter; maybe I’m thinking “black snake” because it was the Black River. Then again, Marykay used that term “black snake,” so maybe that is what they’re called locally.)
I have to tell you, though, that despite having swum in the Black River probably hundreds of times in my childhood, I never once saw a black snake. (Or, for that matter, a water snake.) Do they really exist, or were/are they a scary rural legend?
I may not be an ophidiophobe, but I think I need to know. Because, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.
And in case you were wondering, “forearmed” sounds like this in Parseltongue:
(Which I know thanks to The Parselmouth). Geez, if I’d known that language back in the day I could have scared those “big kids” silly!