More on "moist"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Aug 9 03:02:56 UTC 2009

On Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 12:46 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 12:04 PM -0400 8/8/09, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>The Archives do not wish to disgorge very much of last year's discussion of
>>the allegedd offensiveness of this word.
>>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).
> Wonder where "hoist" and "joist" fall on the list.  I suspect
> semantics has something to do with it...

This was indeed the point I was trying to make in the Word Routes
column. Here's what I originally wrote:

"Why does 'moist' merit a Facebook group of haters, while 'hoist' and
'joist' go unnnoticed? It's more than just the sound of the word: the
disliked words tend to have some basic level of ickiness... slimy
stuff, bodily discharge, or other things that people would prefer not
to think about. Icky words include 'nostril,' 'crud,' 'pus,' and
'pimple.' 'Ointment' and 'goiter' share the 'oi' sound with 'moist':
there must be something about that diphthong that gets under people's

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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