A recent radio competition asking women to write in and name their most distressing phobia elicited some truly strange responses.
The most common phobia submitted was not of snakes or frogs or even Parktown Prawns (though there were several of those), but rather the fear of wooden objects (known as xylophobia), particularly the sticks used in ice creams and lollipops or that doctors use for throat examinations.
Designed to market Platinum Woman, Alexander Forbes’ signature insurance product for the fairer sex, the phobias campaign broadcast radio interviews featuring South African women baring their all on what truly makes their skin crawl – and then inviting listeners to name their own worst fears.
Originally scheduled to run until the end of September, "the campaign saw so many truly fascinating and interesting phobias pour in that we were obliged to extend for another month to allow more ladies to get it all off their chests," says Graham Hill, Senior Manager Marketing and Communications, Alexander Forbes Insurance.
In the end 957 ladies from all over the country wrote in with entrant number 842, Nadine Owens from Boksburg, winning the prize, a R5000 shopping spree at a mall of her choice.
All entries were verified and checked against directories and listings of known phobias. The rules published on the Platinum Woman website (www.afi.co.za) stated that the phobia should not be an existing or recognised phobia. Also, wherever possible, the fears expressed were separated in to various categories - like those involving animals, birds, insects, body parts or food - to narrow down the search for the winning entry.
"Who knew so many ladies were scared of mayonnaise or fruit, especially peaches and bananas (bananaphobia), or obsessions, repulsions, touch and feeling fears, smells, sounds and even colour fears," said Hill who sympathised with women who could not bear to look at anything pink for fear of vomiting.
In the end more than 20 women reported a fear of wood.
"Quite interesting since so many ladies who threaten to use the wooden spoon can’t in fact even bear to touch it," said Hill.
The next biggest fear was typophobia, a fear of holes or clusters of holes, reported by no less than 18 women.
Other popular phobias were globophobia, the fear of balloons, and podophobia, the fear of feet.
"A number of ladies said that they could never have a pedicure and they even detested touching their own feet which they found disgusting," added Hill.
Several ladies admitted to being scared of steel and cotton wool and open cupboard doors while others were afraid of natural phenomena like lightning, wind, gravity (barophobia) or the fear of the Sun (heliphobia).
Article continues on page two...