A recent study found that the reason for some people’s unpleasant experience over the word moist is due to the association of the word with disgusting bodily functions, according to a study published recently in the journal PLoS One.
It was determined through five different experiments that about 10 to 20 percent of the population is averse to the word, and they often speculated that the phonological properties of the words were the ones to blame for the displeasure, according to the study.
However, the psychologist behind the study, Paul Thibodeau, said that the data from the experiments showed that the discomfort from the word moist was probably because the word’s connotation with bodily functions triggers a disgust reflex, reminding people of all the gross things the human body can do.
“It does not really fit into a lot of existing categories for how people think about the psychology of language,” Thibodeau commented over the word “moist”. “It is not a taboo word, it is not profanity, but it elicits this very visceral disgust reaction,” he added.
To refuse the phonological properties, subjects were exposed to words that sounded similar, including hoist, foist and rejoiced. This did not bother participants in the same was as moist did, leading researchers to conclude that the word aversion was not based on its sound, as reported by the New York Times.
Excessive focus on the word moist
A psychologist explains the problem with #moist, the most-hated word in the world https://t.co/W1X0FBBcBz pic.twitter.com/ns3puiUcqY
— Newstalk (@NewstalkFM) May 6, 2016
According to Jason Riggle, a linguistics professor at the University of Chicago, the increased attention over the word moist might have made a broader understanding of word aversion more difficult. Moist has become such a flagship word and the fact that so many people talk about it now makes it harder to get a handle on word aversion more generally, he added.
Riggle explained the main question in the investigations about the aversion of the word, researchers should wonder to what extent is it really some sort of innate expression, the hate for the word, that is independently arrived at and to what extend is it sort of socially transmitted, he asked.
Source: PLoS One