I hate that (moist) word!

There was a letter in the Saturday Mercury recently beseeching fellow Tasmanians never to use the words get and got, and especially never to use what he called the dreadful American bastardisation gotten.  There are plenty of others, the correspondent said, although he didn’t specify what they might be.  Personally I can’t imagine how we could GET by without get and got.  See what I did just then? 

It’s funny the words people hate.  When I did language talkback on ABC Radio, gotten did come up fairly often, as did kids for children, so much so that after pointing out that kid was a long established and acceptable colloquialism, I used executive privilege to ban further discussion on the subject.

Back in 2012 The New Yorker asked its readers to nominate the word they most wanted to see scrubbed from the English language, and they voted overwhelmingly for moist.

That was twelve years ago, but the issue was kept alive by Buzzfeed which used this flimsy pretext as clickbait for listicles such as Why Moist Is The Worst Word Ever, and silly pop quizzes such as How Moist Are You? which asked readers to confess to various instances of allegedly moist, ie unpleasant, behaviour.  Samples included not using deodorant, doing the sniff check instead of having a shower, burping without excusing yourself, not washing your sheets for weeks and, ahem, subjecting your bedmate to a Dutch oven. 

Now the moist-is-bad meme has come up again because a Canadian psychologist recently conducted experiments to determine why people allegedly hate the word moist.

It wasn’t the sound of the word, because participants didn’t mind similar words like hoist and joist.

He went on to find that those who didn’t like the word moist also didn’t like phlegm, vomit and diarrhoea, suggesting that people associated moisture with disgusting bodily fluids. 

Then he showed two groups of participants two different videos: People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive saying the word moist in awkward contexts, and a video of people using ‘moist’ to describe delicious cake.  Participants who watched the first video – of sexy men saying moist – found it more disgusting than those who watched the second video about nice moist cake.

Conclusion? The widespread dislike of moist is partly the association with bodily fluids and partly the social context.  Personally, I don’t think of bodily fluids when I hear the word moist.  I tend to think of either cake, which I prefer moist, or my potted ferns, which like to be kept in moist bedding. 

The same poll showed that people also disliked the words ointment, panties, curd, rural, dollop, slurp and pulp

I can understand slurp, because I hate the sound itself, as when people noisily suck up the last of a drink through straws.  Please, people, don’t do this in public.  It’s moist behaviour!

I can sort of understand rural, because it’s a hard word to say.  But panties, curd, ointment, pulp and dollop strike me as perfectly inoffensive and useful words. 

A specific poll aimed at English people asked for their 25 most hated words and phrases.  Top of the list was amazeballs, and I’m with them there.  Number three on the list was awesomeness, which presumably includes the adjectival form awesome, which in my experience is the all-purpose, omnipresent go-to word for young folks expressing goodness or praiseworthiness. 

Also in the top ten were bants, holibobs and Chrimbo, all new to me.  I looked them up and found that holibobs are holidays, bants is banter and Chrimbo is shorthand for Christmas.  Also in the top ten were totes (totally), Bae (a term of endearment, from baby) lolz (the plural of LOL, amusement) and nom nom nom, the new version of yum yum yum

These breezy new coinages come from the digital generation.  The fact that they are top of the most annoying list confirms that the young have always enjoyed annoying oldies with their slang.

There are some older terms further down the list:  din-dins, nookie, wifey, drinkies and hanky-panky, which suggests a general dislike for baby-talk.  

Some terms made the list, I suspect, because they are annoyingly overused, like nil problemo and my bad.  I’m more puzzled by why people didn’t like wine o’clock and fur baby.   These are clever and funny. 

What words or expressions do you hate?  Let me know in the comments.  I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.