Category Archives: linguistics

Siderodromophilia and other loves

This is why the Intertubes rock. How easy it is to delve off into tangents. Superficially, such tangential escapes may suggest a threat to concentration, but I see them more as starting point for ceaseless mental explorations. It allows one, to refer to another passion of mine and a conversation I recently had with a friend, to electronically clatter about the world like a pinball.

Here’s one adventure I took:

In compiling another post (I’d say earlier today, but it might happen to be posted after this … don’t you love distraction?) about a transit center proposed for Dodger Stadium, I wanted to refer to myself as a lover of train travel, and I wanted a word for it. I recalled how, a fear years ago, I penned an article for Citations, the newsletter for the Ventura County Bar Association, about lawyers and judges who love trains and remembered the word “Siderodromophilia” bandied about at the time. I don’t quite recall why it didn’t end up in the piece, but perhaps the subjects of my interviews were hesitant their colleagues would think when it came to trains, getting on meant getting off.

In writing my piece about the transit center, I wanted to employ a better word for train enthusiast than the phrase “train enthusiast.” So I tried to recall that word. I checked with my mother, who happens to be the editor of Citations, to see if she could recall what the word was (I couldn’t remember it exactly at that point in this journey). She pointed out a site called The Phobia List and suggested it should point me in the direction of the root word I needed. Searching for “trains” I found “Siderodromophobia,” the fear of train travel, railroads and train travel.From there, I replaced the “phobia” with “philia” in Google and learned “siderodromophilia” means “arousal from riding on trains.”

Yes, I enjoy trains, and there is a certain sensuality in the rhythmic motions (and let’s not mention stock footage and visual double entendres of trains entering tunnels), but that’s not what I was driving at, although there doesn’t seem to be a dictionary definition for simply enjoying trains.

Fortunately, Googling the word siderodromophilia wasn’t as disturbing as I’d feared (If there is a phobia for disgusting or plain trashy Google search results, I couldn’t find it on The Phobia List). What it did, however, was send me cascading around the Internet to some fascinating pages, pages of which I am now presently using to distract myself from my original blog entry about the transit center. Not, mind you pages about siderodromophilia, but pages discussing the act, especially a number of people’s surprise upon learning the word and one person’s amusement toward someone who identified himself as a siderodromophile and another discussion about the etymology of the word itself.

Also of note were a variety of slang dictionaries, many of which were focused on so-called “bizarre sexual practices.” I’ll leave the debates about how we discuss our desires, fantasies and turn-ons and what constitutes “bizarre” to blogs focused on sexuality. Because you can guess what happens if you put “sexuality blog” in Google, I’ll point you to two, erotica writer and educator Susie Bright’s Journal and Violet Blue’s Open Source Sex (If you need a warning, you may encounter nudity and various forms of arousal along the way, but these aren’t porn sites), from which you should be able to dive deeply into discussions and explorations of sex and its intersection with culture, society, politics and technology without losing sapiosexuality street cred (Speaking of which, try the purity test for people with large vocabularies — no, you don’t get to know my score).

Anyhow, I’m really slipping away from a point now, and that is the vast and quickly accessible wealth of information available on the Internet. Yeah, not exactly news, but in this day and age of search engine battles, social networking, narrow-casting, and audience fragmentation, it’s worth remembering that the opportunity in the Internet lies not in its commodification or packaging, but in its wide-open frontier-like nature.

How can one not be fascinated, amused and amazed by the fact that within minutes we can debate the changing possibilities for traversing our physical landscape to traipsing across the electronic landscape?

How can one not enjoy the passion for learning, for education, and for enlightenment a medium like this can spur. Yes, there are dark sides to those potentials in the risk of misinformation, distortion and inaccuracy, but the sheer possibility, I believe, outweighs the threat.

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