Sunday, May 08, 2016
Why hate the word 'moist'?
The English language is nothing if not descriptive. But if you are looking to describe something slightly wet, you may want to steer clear of one word in particular - moist.
A study into the common aversion of the word has shown the general disgust it creates may be due to its association to bodily functions, and even related to the facial muscles used to say the word.
Dr Paul Thibodeau, a psychologist from Oberlin College in Ohio, looked at four possible reasons why the word elicited such a strong negative response from people.
One hypothesis is that people just don't like the sound of the word, or that it may be associated with sex and bodily functions.
While one of the more interesting, but controversial, ideas was that it creates 'facial feedback'. The act of saying the word uses the same arrangement of facial muscles as we use to show disgust.
More than 2,400 people were asked to complete questionnaires over the course of five experiments, with initial results revealing almost 18 per cent of people did have an aversion to the word 'moist'. Furthermore, the results showed that aversion was more likely to affect young, neurotic women.
When compared against strongly aversive words, such as 'murderer' or 'vomit', it was found to be fairly benign.
The initial findings indicate the word has become tainted with cultural references, with people linking the word with bodily functions contexts, and so contaminating it.
Dr Thibodeau wrote the findings suggest 'that the prototypical moist-averse person is a young, neurotic, female who is well-educated and somewhat disgusted by bodily function.'