Carol Lloyd, Salon writer and Broadsheet blogger, writes:
Linguists: “Moist” makes women cringe
Moist. Does it get your panties in a twist? Inspire a cornucopia of unpleasant feelings? Give you goose pimples? Does my very line of questioning strike you as repugnant?
As someone who has long enjoyed torturing my brother by describing chocolate cakes as deliciously moist and fudgy (another one of his retch-inducing words), I never considered that lexical disgust might divide along gender lines. I’d always imagined that it was an individual idiosyncrasy — the full manifestation of my brother’s highly developed disgust response. But according to the word-spotters at Language Log, not only is there a widespread aversion to the word “moist” (and a host of other nontaboo words like panties, cornucopia and goose pimples), but word aversion seems to be more prevalent among women.
The Language Log has compiled an impressive archive of the various online discussions and mentions of the anti-moist phenomenon, many of which question why women would be more likely to be grossed out by the notion of moistness. There’s even a Facebook club devoted to the idea. What does the aversion really mean?
No doubt Freud would have had a field day with the idea of people — be they men or women — deeply and unconsciously repelled by the word’s association with female desire, fecundity and ripeness. Indeed, a lot of the words that gross people out seem to be ones that suggest women’s bodies. Add the word “panties” to the mix and we’re not talking about the unconscious so much as bad porn. But other words that are equally suggestive don’t set off alarm bells. Why moist and not wet?
I am not alone! She poses an interesting argument, but I can only speak from personal experience when I say that my aversion is based solely on how the physical act of pronouncing the word makes me feel. I literally cannot bring myself to form that word, and the other words on my list of words to never use around Molly:
– the other work for kitten that starts with a “p” (I refuse to put it on my blog)
(basically any derivation of the work “milk”)
How do you feel about the M-word? What words set YOU off? Share in the comments section!