‘Hot chocolate’, ‘bubbly’, and ‘crinkle’ are all words that illicit warm, fuzzy feelings inside. On the other hand, the words ‘moist’, ‘pus’, and ‘curdle’ might completely gross us out. Why does this happen? Is it something about the composition of the word that’s disgusting, or does it have to do with the meanings or connotations they convey? Although there’s many words that are unpleasant, we’ll focus on the word “moist.”
Ah, the great “moist” debate. As nasty as that sounds, it’s a real thing. On one side, we have the people who are absolutely disgusted– myself included- with this word, and on the other side we have nasty people who think it’s beautiful… gross.
Many studies have been realized to try to understand why people loathe the word “moist.” The mo(i)st extensive and comprehensive one is a study done by researches Paul H. Thibodeau and Christopher Bromberg from Oberlin University, and Robby Hernandez and Zachary Wilson from Trinity University (both pairs from their respective university’s Department of Psychology). “An Exploratory Investigation of Word Aversion” explains that there are two main reasons as to why people loathe this word. The first is that many people have a phonological dislike to “moist.” The researchers argue that the literal pronunciation of “moist” is off-putting, mainly because when we say the word, our facial muscles contract and form a similar expression to that of disgust (the end of the word, moist, requires us to grimace).
Secondly, the word’s relation to bodily fluids is another reason as to why people find it so unpleasant. In this case, it’s the word’s relation to sexual activity that makes people feel uncomfortable when saying or hearing it. The ties it has to wetness and warmth (say, like the inside of your mouth) triggers an involuntary repulsive reaction in many people. The research found that the group of people who avoided the word moist were mainly youthful females. So, next time you casually throw around “moist,” take notice of who’s more grossed out by it- you might find out some interesting things.
P.S.- If you’ve made it through this post without wanting to vomit, here, I hope you can forgive me. Please enjoy these 30 seconds of pure glory/repulsiveness as much as I did.