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Why Do People Hate the Word 'Moist'?

Get your mind out of the gutter.
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(Photo: Randall Vermillion/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Randall Vermillion/Shutterstock)

Hey, they did a study.

Psychologist Paul Thibodeau and three colleagues decided that it was time to take a closer look at the word “moist,” writing:

The word “moist” ... has been the subject of a Facebook page (called “I HATE the word MOIST”) with over 3,000 followers and was rated as the least liked word in the English language by a Mississippi State Poll... feature articles have been written in Slate Magazine ... and The New Yorker ... and popular TV shows like“How I Met Your Mother” (“Stuff”) and “The New Girl” (“Birthday”) have devoted entire plot-lines to the comic consequences of word aversion.

Now it’s not just anecdotal. Thibodeau found that between 13 and 21 percent of people have an aversion to the word.

But why?

  • Is it just a gross-sounding word? If so, then people who hate moist should also hate foist and rejoiced. Verdict: No. Hating the sound moist is independent of one’s appreciation for words that rhyme.
  • Is it because it makes people think of sex? Verdict: Yes! Priming people to think of sex versus, say, cake, makes people dislike the word more. Bonus: People who scored higher on a measure of disgust for bodily functions were more likely than those who scored lower to claim an aversion to the word.

So, if you don’t like the word moist, get your mind out of the gutter. And, if your aversion is severely hampering your life, just think about cake!

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “Why Do People Hate the Word 'Moist'?"