In college, one of my classmates brought back a paper with a note from the professor reading, "That word should only be used to describe recipes or vaginas." The word in question? "Moist," of course.
At some point, we as a culture collectively agreed that we should avoid the word "moist" at all costs. But why is that? Does the sound hurt our ears, or does the meaning offend our sensibilities?
A video by Mashable explains the science behind our hatred of "moist," because yes, this has been studied. One Oberlin College study examined three hypotheses: That we hate the way "moist" sounds for aesthetic reasons, that we really hate what it means, and that we're so convinced "moist" is a terrible word just because everyone else seems to think so.
To figure out which theory held true, the researchers conducted three experiments. In one, they tested whether people who couldn't stand the word "moist" also had an aversion to words with similar meanings ("wet," "damp," "sticky"), words with similar sounds ("hoist," "rejoice"), disgusting words ("vomit," "puke," "phlegm") or taboo words ("shithead"). It turned out that people with a beef with the word "moist" were most likely to also hate words with related meanings. The other two experiments supported this finding. Overall, a (surprisingly low) 20% of the participants had "moist" aversions.
"Three experiments suggest that semantic features of the word — namely, associations with disgusting bodily functions — underlie peoples’ unpleasant experience," the paper reads.
In other words, the word "moist" makes us think of specific things, like spit, dirt, and sponges, that most of us find unpleasant. So, the word becomes unpleasant to us, too. Unless, apparently, it helps us bake a cake or talk about our privates — though I have yet to encounter any erotica that uses "moist" in a sexy way.