More on "moist"

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Mon Aug 10 14:39:34 UTC 2009

On Aug 10, 2009, at 10:18 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: More on "moist"
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> On Aug 8, 2009, at 8:21 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> "Moist" offensive or unpleasant, though it occurs in TV and radio ads
>> for various lotions and other skin-care products thousands of times a
>> day, 24/7/365?
>> Somebody must is done lost his mind!
> we're now on the verge of simply re-doing the discussion from two
> years ago (and similar discussions in other places):
> 1. some people report an aversion to "moist", either in the form:
>       i find "moist" ugly, objectionable, or offensive.
> or (very often) in the absolute form:
>       "moist" is ugly, objectionable, or offensive.
> 2. others respond by saying either:
>      i do not find "moist" ugly, objectionable, or offensive.
> or (very often) by voicing an absolute rejection:
>     "moist" is not ugly, objectionable, or offensive.
> and go on to point out, as Wilson does here, that "moist" is frequent,
> at least in certain contexts.  sometimes they go on further, as Wilson
> does here, to label objectors as crazy, deluded, stridently feminist
> (this last because some objectors label "moist" as offensive to
> women), or whatever.
> background: these exchanges are often framed in absolute terms, with
> the assumption that the offense, if there is one, inheres in the
> expression itself, not in a complex relation between the expression,
> the speaker/writer, the hearer/reader, and the context of use.
> (similar exchanges happen for many expressions.  "moist" is in some
> ways a relatively simple case, since the intentions of the speaker/
> writer play very little role in exchanges about its purported
> offensiveness.)
> but thinking about these matters in such absolute terms is just
> relying on a kind of word magic.  the exchanges are really about the
> judgments, opinions, associations, etc. of individuals -- which differ
> from person to person.  you can point out to an objector that the
> purportedly offensive item does not offend many people and occurs
> frequently in some contexts, but you probably can't argue them out of
> their gut reactions.  on the other hand, within a wide latitude, you
> can tell the objectors not to berate people who use the item (as if
> they were deliberately trying to offend them, or at least behaving
> inconsiderately).
> taking offense is a very complex matter; i've just barely scratched
> the surface here.  (and there's a connection between attitudes towards
> words like "moist" and attitudes towards usages in general.)
> (semi-final note: yes, it's true that attitudes (of all sorts, not
> just to "cringe words") tend to be transmitted from person to person.
> but you can still ask what factors might have contributed to the first
> objections and fostered the transmission of these objections.  that's
> how the vowel of "moist", the semantics of the word, and the
> association, in some people's minds, with the expression "moist
> panties" come into the "moist" discussion.)
> (final note, for now: all of these sub-topics, and more, have already
> been hashed out here, on Language Log, and in the blog postings Ben
> Zimmer cited, though there's a subtlety with "moist panties" that i
> don't think has been ventilated, though i've exchanged considerable e-
> mail with readers on the subject.  more in a while.)
> arnold
Erica Jong brought moist panties out into the open, so to speak, an
image that many women probably found embarrassing, & thus offensive.
I wonder if the moistness aversion didn't do a considerable leap after
that time.

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