There are few words in the English language that people hate more than "moist." According to a new study published in PLOS One by Dr. Paul Thibodeau, a professor of psychology at Oberlin College, up to 20% of the English-speaking population in America simply can't stand the word and find it to be utterly revolting. But rather than just count the number of people who hate hearing "moist" uttered, Dr. Thibodeau went on a deep dive to learn why.
Over four years, the psychologist conducted five experiments with approximately 2,500 participants to try and come up with the answer. Going into this study, he had three hypothesis for why someone might be averse to a particular word: because it deals with disgusting content, because it sounds gross to the ear, or simply because others in the culture have deemed it so. From his research, the doctor learned that it was mainly the first and last reasons that made people so uncomfortable with "moist."
As Dr. Thibodeau broke it down in a piece for the PsycheReport, "Emotional language is processed differently than “neutral” language: it grabs our attention, engages different parts of the brain, and is more likely to be remembered.” In other words, it's all about context.
One experiment that really bore that result out involved a group of people who were forced to watch a 2013 People Magazine video of the year's sexiest man alive Adam Levine saying the word "moist." Meanwhile, a control group watched a clip of someone using the word to describe cake. People viewing the first film were far more put off by the word's usage than those who saw the second film. Sorry, Adam.
"Crevice," "slacks," and "luggage" are other words that people hate, according toDr. Thibodeau's findings.
For more anecdotal evidence of people's hatred of the word "moist" here's a roundup of truly disgusted tweets.
The word "moist" so gross. I hate that word 😭😭😭😭😭😭— India (@IndiaaIrie) May 5, 2016
"Ooo this cake is moist!"-mom— Elizabeth Heiser Ŧ (@ElizabethHeiser) April 29, 2016
"Ew, don't say that word it's gross."-me
"Moist? Nah, you know what word is gross? Formaldehyde."-mom
The word 'secretion' is up there with 'moist' SO GROSS— katie (@katieokeefffe) April 26, 2016
gross i hate the word moist! give me a wet cake. give me a wet. damp cupcake— Jayne R. Dixon (@JayneDixon_) April 18, 2016
'Moist' is such a gross, disgusting word. Why does it even exist? Even on cake mix packaging? I try not to write it anymore, but seriously.— Bluetyfloof (@IstaFloof) April 12, 2016
People still say "moist" like 90% of the population hasn't been talking about how gross a word it is for the last 80 years.— Adam Newman (@Adam_Newman) April 5, 2016