Here's Why The Word "Moist" Grosses You Out

Cellar door is commonly accepted to be one of the most pleasant phrases in the English language. The polar opposite of cellar door is the word moist. The word itself makes some people uncomfortable. Moist. They don’t like hearing it and they find it difficult to say.

Oberlin Professor Paul Thibodeau sought to find out just why moist makes people so uncomfortable. He and his researchers came up with some odd findings.

“On average, about 18 percent of our participants identified as categorically averse to the word,” Thibodeau writes. “Women, younger people, and those with more education, who tended to score higher on measures of disgust toward bodily function and neuroticism (a personality trait characterized by increased feelings of anxiety, worry, anger, and guilt), were particularly likely to find the word unpleasant.”

The study was conducted in five parts over four years and spanned 2,500 subjects. Moist was found less unpleasant than racial slurs and words associated with violence. The moist-averse associated words like "yuck" and "ewww" with the word.

Researchers presented three possible theories for why people hate the word.

1. Sound: Saying “moist” uses the same facial muscles that contract when we experience something disgusting. (Alternately, it may be that the word itself is just unpleasant.)

2. Connotation: Moist conjures both positive and negative meanings. While we all love moist chocolate cake, the word can also trigger images of vomit, phlegm, or the grosser parts of sex. A cake combined with snot is not good.

3. Social transmission: If one person dislikes the word, they convince someone else that they don’t like the word either. Anti-moist sentiment spreads throughout the land.

So whatever the reason, moist seems like a relatively innocuous word that gets a bad rap. We love moist. Everything should be moist. Read more of the study here.
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