In the modern lexicon of pop culture, few words manage to achieve as unfavorable a status as “moist.” Use of a word that ought to be a delicious way to describe chicken or cake is almost viewed as a crime against humanity in some circles. Facebook groups popped up dedicated to hating it. Publications like Slate and The New Yorker ran pieces analyzing its awfulness. TV shows like How I Met Your Mother and The New Girl have devoted entire plots to it. A 2009 poll even rated “moist” as the least liked word in the English language. These are a few of the examples cited by a study called “An Exploratory Investigation of Word Aversion” that specifically – and scientifically! – sought an answer to why people hate “moist.”
Two researchers from the Oberlin College Department of Psychology and the Trinity University Department of Psychology ran three separate experiments as part of an “initial scientific exploration into the phenomenon of word aversion.” They wanted to find out what was behind America’s anti-“moist” sentiment. Did the word sound unpleasant? Was it the word’s connotations? Were some people more likely to dislike the word than others?
Two of the experiments looked at hundreds of participants who took on online survey. The third looked at about 40 Oberlin College students. Overall, researchers found that as many as 20 percent of the population may be “moist” averse and “that such an aversion is related to age, neuroticism, and a particular kind of disgust: to bodily functions (and not phonological features of the word).”
Essentially, the reason we hate “moist” has nothing to do with the sound of the word; rather it is because of “moist’s” meaning. The study also found that younger people dislike “moist” more than others. Maybe “moist” hatred is even seeing a snowball effect?
Overall, the paper believes it has scratched the surface of “moist”-hatred but says that a deeper look into “moist” is needed. And if you didn’t find the phrase “a deeper look into ‘moist’” to be super gross, you are definitely “moist” averse.