Moist? Ugh. Mucus? Yuck. Words we hate.

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Photo: Roo Reynolds, via Creative Commons, some copyright restrictions

There’s a great article today in Slate.com about word aversions. Right near the top of most-hated words: moist, it even beats out vomit and puke, at least in polls of college students. I think you have to say it out loud to get the full aversion effect.

From the Slate article, a quote from Chicago University linguistics professor James Riggles:

“The [words] evoke nausea and disgust rather than, say, annoyance or moral outrage. And the disgust response is triggered because the word evokes a highly specific and somewhat unusual association with imagery or a scenario that people would typically find disgusting—but don’t typically associate with the word.” These aversions, Riggle adds, don’t seem to be elicited solely by specific letter combinations or word characteristics. “If we collected enough of [these words], it might be the case that the words that fall in this category have some properties in common,” he says. “But it’s not the case that words with those properties in common always fall in the category.”   

Some others high on the list of words people find repulsive: phlegm, puke, ointment, fudge, squab…

The one (sort of) word that comes to mind for me is “org”–the suffix on many URLs for non-profits, i.e., www.ncpr.org. When I have to read this on the air, I always spell it out, o-r-g, rather than saying “org.” I abhor the sound of that syllable.

Okay, folks, here we go: what words do you find yucky? There doesn’t have to be a reason. This is a visceral response. There are words each of us finds unpleasant. Let’s start a list here. Let’s see if any word(s) rise to the top of the NCPR audience list as most hated. I’ll be sure not to use those on the air.

And while we’re talking about words, a neat video put together by Radiolab and NPR–even if you saw it a year or two ago in an earlier post I did, worth a second watch: