Grossed Out By 'Moist'? Science Knows Why

Fitness female taking a break from intense workout
Science has figured out why you hate the word “moist.” (Image: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages)

There are certain words that are the equivalent of chewing on a sheet of tin foil for some people. “Phlegm,” “ointment” and “mucus” are a few, but even they have nothing on the most hated word in the English language: “moist.” According to a recent Winq poll, almost 60 percent of people picked it as the grossest word ever.

But why does the adjective for “slightly wet; damp or humid” spawn such distaste in so many people? Dr. Paul Thibodeau from Oberlin College made it his mission to find out, and what he discovered is pretty interesting.

After surveying 2,500 people over the span of several years, Dr. Thibodeau found that 18 percent hated the word "moist.” His hypothesis behind the adverse reaction to the word boiled down to three reasons: how it sounds, its association with bodily functions and because it has become such a widely despised word. He also discovered the majority of “moist” haters are highly educated young women.

Because haters of the word didn’t react the same way to “foist” or “rejoiced” or even sex words like “vagina” or horny,” it’s clearly not the sound of “moist” that makes people cringe — it’s because of the bodily function aspect of it. The same people who loathe the word also responded similarly to words such as “phlegm” and “vomit.” Make sense?

Dr. Thibodeau also believes there is an evolutionary component to the “moist” hate. As he stated in an article on ThePsychReport, “If we didn’t have an instinct to run away from vomit and diarrhea, disease would spread more easily.”

And some people just hate the word because so many others do, which is totally related to the idea of bodily functions. “There is an important cultural component,” he adds. “The symbols we use to communicate with one another can become contaminated and elicit disgust by virtue of their association with bodily functions,” he wrote.

If you’ve read this far and don’t feel like that avocado toast from breakfast is coming back to haunt you, you probably don’t have a “moist” aversion. If you are feeling queasy, we’re truly sorry. No more “moist” stories this year.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you hate the word “moist”? Do you agree with the scientific reasons people are so averse to it? What other words do you loathe?

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