The science behind the gagging...
There’s no quicker way to have people clutching their ears as if they were suddenly being overwhelmed with white noise, than by saying the word ‘moist.’
So, just what is it about the word moist that gets everyone so upset? One scientist has been on a mission to find out…
Dr. Paul Thibodeau from Oberlin College surveyed 2,500 people and found that 18% of them hated the word moist. He hypothesised that this strong reaction was down to three reasons: the way the word sounds, its association with bodily functions and because it has become such a widely disliked word.
He discovered that the majority of people who hated the word ‘moist’ were highly educated young women, and the reasoning in the latter two hypotheses were correct.
So while people were fine with the words ‘foist’ and ‘rejoiced’, they couldn’t deal with the mental images that ‘moist’ conjured.
‘People who were averse to “moist” also responded similarly to words such as “phlegm,” and “vomit,” leading us to believe that the disgust is related in part to the association with bodily functions,’ he explained on Gizmodo.
There’s something evolutionary in our hatred of the word, as it instinctively makes us retreat from things that could make us ill.
‘Disgust is adaptive,’ he explains. ‘If we didn’t have an instinct to run away from vomit and diarrhea, disease would spread more easily.’
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Dr. Thibodeau found that his theory that people hate ‘moist’ just because everyone else does, also relays back to the whole bodily function squirms.
‘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.’
We’ve definitely just used up our ‘moist’ quota for the year.