Computing Magazine

Word Aversion & Why We Hate Words Like "Moist"

Posted on the 15 May 2013 by Expectlabs @ExpectLabs


Why are we filled with disgust when hearing certain words? Word aversion is a linguistic concept associated with the sound and structure of words, along with how words “feel” during their pronunciation. University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman describes the concept as:

“a feeling of intense, irrational distaste for the sound or sight of a particular word or phrase, not because its use is regarded as etymologically or logically or grammatically wrong, nor because it’s felt to be over-used or redundant or trendy or non-standard, but simply because the word itself somehow feels unpleasant or even disgusting.”

For reasons that are still not entirely understood, “moist” garners most of the word aversion attention. Similar to phobias, hated words like “moist” evoke a highly visceral response in people because they associate the word with a specific image or scenario. Ben Zimmer of Visual Thesaurus writes that other words that share the “oi” sound with “moist,” like “ointment,” are also disliked. Is it the diphthong that annoys people? Why is it that words like “damp” and “soggy,” which have similar meanings to “moist,” don’t produce the same kind of outcry?

What other words make you shudder?

(via Slate & Jezebel)

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