I had intended to write this post about the etymology of the word carnival, because it’s quite an interesting one. This got me researching useful carnival terms like the fear of clowns, coulrophobia, and the fear of bears. But wait. Five or six consecutive Googlings, in which I employed the sum of my knowledge from almost fifteen years of search engine experience, netted not one single credible source for a term meaning ‘the fear of bears.’
This could mean several things, all of which confuse and concern me.
It could mean there is no confirmed psychological condition for the fear of bears (if there were it would probably be called ursophobia, and so we will call it henceforth). After all there is a veritable plethora of fake or medically unverifiable phobias drifting about the internet these days. Hippopotomonstrosequippedaliophobia — purported to be the term for ‘the fear of long words’ — is a prevalent find, though I have serious doubts about the medical credibility of the term, which itself appears to be nonsense (hippopoto- coming from the Greek for ‘river horse,’ the literal translation of hippopotomus, and by extension a synonym for ‘big’; monstro- coming from the Latin root for ‘monstrous,’ also by extension a synonym for big; and sesquipedalian, a real English word meaning ‘pertaining to long words,’ literally ‘foot and a half long’ in Latin.) and more than likely a mean-spirited joke at the expense of people who have such a fear. So maybe ursophobia is just another fake phobia. But that’s the problem. The fake phobias are just as easy to come by on the web as the real ones. Fictional phobia or not, a search for ‘the fear of bears’ should result in more than just a few unfounded conjectures on forums suggesting the existence of such a condition.
It could mean people, on the whole, don’t fear bears at all. The idea that there is no psychological condition called ursophobia is a reasonable one. That’s where a great deal of these fake phobias come from: people have a fear of something that doctors have not observed and confirmed as a psychological condition, so people make a word for it themselves. My, admittedly so-unqualified-it’s-ridiculous, understanding is that a phobia is more than a fear or distaste for something, but an irrational, crippling fear or hatred. And that’s why it makes sense that there wouldn’t be a real ursophobia: because it’s completely and solidly rational to fear bears.
I don’t trust animals that 1) can walk on their hind legs, 2) recognize themselves in a mirror, or 3) have thumbs. As scientists learn more about the mysteries of animal intelligence, it becomes clearer and clearer all the time that we humans might just be holding onto our position as the dominant species by our fingernails. Bears are one of the few animals that can walk on their hind legs. That should scare us enough, especially if they ever learn how to carpool and wear suits. But they’re also much, much bigger than humans, with giant claws and teeth that could tear us to shreds in a matter of seconds. Don’t let the fact that they eat berries mislead you. Don’t be fooled by their beguiling cuteness and huggability. These are adaptations designed to trap their human prey. Bears are stone cold killers whose very nature it is to hunt down and eat people. There’s probably a bear watching you right now. Whatever you do, don’t look him in the eye and don’t rub his belly, no matter how much his lovable smile makes him look like he wants you to. It would be the last thing you ever did.
And so, if we want to keep our job as the dominant species on this planet, we need to fear bears. It’s right and rational for us to.
Which brings me back to the first issue raised: why isn’t there a phobia of bears? There are so many other zany phobias out there. And I mean real, medically documented phobias. Take linonophobia, which is, I kid you not, the fear of string. Not the fear of rope (or hanging by one), not the fear of chains, not the fear of whips, garrotes or wires. The fear of string. Then there’s pogonophobia, which is the fear of beards, a word many foreign people confuse readily with bears, but still — it’s not ursophobia.
And speaking of confusing bears with other words: melissophobia. Despite it’s appearance, melissophobia is not the fear of women named Melissa, though both words have the same root. It’s the fear of bees. But if one Googles the phobia of bears, melissophobia comes up most frequently. That’s because people are stupid; another reason we need to watch out for bears and other ambitious species who might exploit our intellectual failings. In fact, I’m willing to bet money it was a bear who posted the misinformation about melissophobia in the first place.
You might be asking yourself ‘what’s so awesome about any of this?’
Well, it’s awesome that enough people have the good sense to fear clowns that we had to coin a word to explain it. Clowns have lost the element of surprise. That means we’re safe from clowns taking over as the dominant species, at least for now.
It’s awesome that melissophobia is a real condition, and it may just be the key to protecting us from a unified ursine power play. Everyone knows bears love honey. It’s like catnip, crack and coffee for bears all rolled into one. Bees have stingers, in part, as a means of defending the honey from animals such as bears. For their own survival, bears have adapted to become melissophobes. If the human race learns to use this to our advantage, we can deal the bears a blow so crippling, they’ll never recover. If we fail, it could mean the end of us all. And I fear the bears may have struck first. They are, after all, the most likely culprits behind the mysterious deaths of honey bees. That should tell us something about their resolve; that bears are willing to give up their favourite addiction forever in order to win the great Urso-Human Wars.
We could all learn something from the bears.
 Even those we share with other primates, who meet all three of the aforementioned criteria above, earning my eternal mistrust.[i]
 Ironically, honeybeephobia is the fear of women named Melissa. The scientist who named these two phobias is a direct descendent of the Viking in charge of the Greenland/Iceland debacle of ’86 (886, that is).
[i] or is it distrust?