Someone asked why everyone hates the word “moist”. I find the question disturbing, because I love the word “moist”, but OK, let’s play the game and see what excuses people give.
Researchers ruled out the “oi” possibility by asking participants who hated the word “moist” to rate how uncomfortable words like “foist” and “hoist” made them feel, and sure enough, they didn’t merit the same discomfort. Instead, the results suggested that we hate the word because it has unpleasant connotations. People rated it more aversive when it followed positive words, like “paradise,” as well as sexual words. According to researchers, this could be because the preceding positive words highlight how much we dislike “moist,” and sexual words “primed a more negative, sexual interpretation.”
One participant summed it up perfectly: “It reminds people of sex and vaginas.” (That remark could also open a whole discussion on how society conditions us to hate vaginas, but that’s way beyond the scope of this article.)
Finally, the research also showed that people who hate the word “moist” also hate semantically similar words like “damp,” indicating that it really is our associations with the word that make us hate it so much.
That seems a little odd, to me at least — words that I associate with sex and water have positive connotations. I can agree in principle that it is the chain of associations that give the word its poor reputation, but I think they’ve only gotten to the first link — there must be something further down the series of associations that makes references to sex and dampness unpleasant.
I’ve been trying to think of any word that makes me feel icky…I wouldn’t be surprised if there were, but I can’t come up with one. All the people annoyed that I wrote “moist” repeatedly will have to try and get revenge by hitting me with a word that might make me cringe.