More on "moist"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Aug 8 17:01:37 UTC 2009

On Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 12:20 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> On Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 12:04 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> Just heard on NPR's quiz show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!" which I find
>> _highly_ offensive for its unfunniness, that users of FaceBook have declared
>> the word "moist" to be the most unpleasant word in English (or on FaceBook -
>> sorry I didn't hear the entire thing).
>> The show then quoted a linguist (one of us?) who suggested that
>> the perceived putridity may come from the "oi" diphthong. Why a humble
>> diphthong should be considered offensive went unexplored.
>> I suspect anti-Brooklyn/Bowery Boy bigotry in representations of NYC
>> speech.  Am very offended by all of it.
> Well, Mark Peters recently quoted me about the "oi" of "moist" (and
> "ointment", "goiter", etc.) in his column for Good:
> quoting:
> No offense to Brooklynites intended, of course! Nor to residents of
> Des Moines, Detroit, Boise, and Hanoi.

Yep, sure enough, they quoted Mark and me on this. Audio here:

Thanks for the tip, JL.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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