More on "moist"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 9 17:25:47 UTC 2009

Even if you think "moist" is somehow icky, it is self-evidently _far_ less
so than other words Ben mentions.

As Wilson says, adfolk have been using "moist" forever, or at least
since "Dream of the Rood."

Surely they'd have found a synonym long ago if they'd had any inkling that
there was  prejudice against "moist."

Why no inkling?  I go with the the theory (borrowed from a post last year,
unless it was me, in which case I take full credit) that the ickiness of
"moist" is metalinguistic folklore. Once having gained a toehold
in circulation, it has led to that magical combination of acclaim ("Wow! I
never thought of that!"),  inadvertent "endorsement" ("I don't believe it,
but I'll ask X !  He/she will know!/ be amused!/ pass it on!"), and virality
("People are saying it online! It's gotta be important/true!") that leads to
language change, all while bringing the Apocalypse just that much nearer.


On Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 12:13 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: More on "moist"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 11:02 PM -0400 8/8/09, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> >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
> >skin."
> >---
> >
> There goes Ben again, cribbing from me less than three months before
> I said the same thing almost as clearly.
> ;-)
> LH
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