Elgazette Logo newtrans  The magazine for English language teaching and English medium education

The moist hated words in the English language

DOG2

Claudia Civinini writes

Is there a reason why people hate the word ‘moist’? Research says there is – and it has to do with its semantics more than its sound.
With social media periodically bringing up the topic, we decided to dig for the evidence.

Cognitive psychologist Paul Thibodeau and his team carried out investigations into word aversion in 2014 and 2016. A large percentage of their participants reported that the sound of the word ‘moist’ was particularly annoying.

However, the research found that most moist-averse participants didn’t rate ‘foist’ or ‘hoist’ as more unpleasant than those participants with no aversion to the word ‘moist’. This means that the reason for their distaste must lie elsewhere.

And the researchers found it in the meaning of the word – and its contextual associations.

When participants were asked to rate 29 words in a pseudo-random order, they tended to rate ‘moist’ as more disagreeable when it followed sexual words than when it followed culinary words. The research found that about 20 per cent of respondents self-reported an aversion to the word.

Facebook groups dedicated to berating the word are cropping up, amassing a sizeable following. The page ‘I HATE the word MOIST’ counts over 20,000 followers.

A short-lived survey by Oxford Dictionary in 2016 showed that ‘moist’ was second only to ‘Brexit’ as the most hated word in the United Kingdom – but the survey was shut down after only one day due to ‘serious misuse’.