Say the word “moist” in front of a woman, any woman, and she’ll cringe while announcing her hatred of the word. The word moist is like the Jennifer Love Hewitt of the English language — every woman despises it but none can clearly explain why.
Psychologist Paul Thibodeau and his colleagues did a recent study to get to the bottom of the vitriol for such a harmless word.
Here were the findings, summed up by the good folks over at Nautilus.
They gave participants a set of words and asked them to rate how, whether, and to what degree, each word made them uncomfortable.
Twenty-one percent of the people in the study had an aversion to the unloved word. It turns out that the sounds don’t have much to do with that effect. Similar-sounding words, such as “foist,” did not generate the same reaction. Because those words also put your facial muscles in similar positions, we can also discount the disgust-facial expression theory.
So what about the meaning? Well, people found “moist” most aversive when it follows an unrelated, pleasant word, such as “paradise.” There seems to be a contrast effect going on here. “Moist” seems bad when following “paradise” but not when following a really negative word, like a racial slur. “Moist” also didn’t seem so unpleasant when it followed words related to food, such as “cake.” In contrast, it provoked the most negative reactions when preceded by overtly sexual words (use your imagination). These results show that reminding people of certain meanings of “moist” can affect one’s disgust reaction to it.
Further analysis showed that “moist”-averse people also tend to dislike related words, such as “damp” and “wet,” showing further support for the idea that it’s the meaning, not the sound, of the word that’s setting people off. “Moist”-averse people also tended to have more general disgust reactions to bodily functions, suggesting that it’s the connotations with bodily functions and sex that sets people off.
Can we go back and discuss the “moist followed by a racial slur” part because I’m dying to know what slurs they used in the study. Any slur I can think of sounds more hilarious than offensive.
So basically, half of the people hated the meaning of the word and the other half hated the sound of the word. Overall, people just love to hate on moist. Moist don’t care. It will still show up on cake mix boxes and in episodes of Barefoot Contessa. She tosses around moist like it’s a racial slur, too.
Now that we’ve got the whole moist thing wrapped up, ask your girl why she hates the word panties. And then ask her how she feels about the term “moist panties.” Watch her almost vomit.