The Scientific Reason We HATE The Word "Moist"

Photo: iStock
We HATE The Word "Moist"


Forgive me if I get a little TMI here but whenever I hear the word "moist," I think of a breeding ground for infection, especially in the lower parts of the body.

It's amazing how one word can paint such a disgusting picture in my head. 

You want some things to be moist, I guess ... like cake. You want baked goods to be moist, but you don't necessarily want them to be described that way.

Maybe, instead of "moist," using words like "tasty," "delicious," and "yummy" would be better. Though, if you're describing something to clean off the jelly on a child's face, I'd go with "wet" or "damp." Hmm, damp isn't that great either. 

Could someone PLEASE come up with a better word other than "moist"?

Words are like Project Runway designers: one day they're in, and then, for no clear reason, the next day they're out. Have you ever heard anyone call an eyelash an "eyewinker," or had anyone refer to a kiss as "osculation"? These are real words that no one uses anymore. 

Sometimes, words come back with their meaning slightly changed. "Dude" used to mean someone who worked on a dude ranch, which was kind of like a cowboy fantasy camp. Now, it can be used what you call a friend or an expression of surprise: "Dude!" 

I wouldn't mind if the word "moist" was deleted from the English language —and apparently, I'm not alone in this.

More and more people are admitting their aversion to the word.

Everyone from linguists, psychologists, and Jimmy Fallon have looked into why "moist" makes so many people uncomfortable, and why hearing it said out loud disgusts people. It might be because of the "oi" sound, or the shape your face makes when you say it.

There's also research on why certain words trigger what's known as word aversion. One reason is that the words themselves make us feel disgust or revulsion just as much as, and separate from, the things they describe.

We associate certain pictures or memories with specific words.

It's one of the ways we learn language in the first place. Then, something happens and we associate the word with certain feelings and reactions.

The funny thing is, those reactions of disgust don't even have to happen to us. Jason Riggle, Professor of Linguistics at University of Chicago says, "Once someone tells you their disgust, that can stick in your mind as the one reference for it."

If by telling my association with the word "moist," I made more people hate the word, then I'm OK with that.

The word needs to be taken out of usage; let's bring back "tubular" or "groovy" to take its place.