I see loads of words every day. Part of the job. In most cases, I'm OK with words or, at the very least, indifferent towards them. The word "partition," for example. I have no opinion on it one way or the other. We're cool, partition.
But there are a few words that, very often, make me sick to my stomach, and, it turns out, I'm not the only one. This is, I've learned, just part of language and is known as "word aversion." It's not like word rage, which occurs when you hate a word or phrase because of its associations with a particular group of people or trend, ("bromance," "Twi-hard"), because people often use it incorrectly, ("your/you're") or because you think it's pretentious, ("nomenclature," "obtuse," "pretentious"). Word aversion has nothing to do with meaning and is all about the actual word. Word aversion is, according to Language Log, “...bred of the mysterious relationships between language, emotion, memory, sound and ‘mouthfeel.’" (Sidebar: "Mouthfeel" is just an awful, awful word. Why would anyone include "mouthfeel" in an essay about word aversion?) Once I realized that word aversion was a common phenomenon and not, say, the inane ramblings of an increasingly unstable Internet writer, I decided to turn it into the most uncomfortable-to-write article I've ever written.
I always thought believing that "moist" was just a flat out wrong word was unique to me, but it is apparently almost universally accepted as the most hated word in the English language. Search "moist" on Google to see page after page of moist-hate, or join one of the hundreds of Facebook groups calling for its ban.
What it is:
Moist just refers to anything that's slightly wet. Over time, it's taken on some sexual overtones, but that has nothing to do with why this word makes America so uncomfortable. It's just a terrible, shit word. No one has any problems with "damp" or "wet" or even "moisture." But moist, on its own, is a nightmare. I've now typed it five times for this article and I still cringe. It never get easier.
Use it in an Awful Sentence:
Take any sentence with the word "moist" in it.
Now imagine that your mom is the one who said it.
What it Actually Calls to Mind:
Because of how awful "moist" is, it should only be used to describe a very specific kind of situation-dampness. Imagine a pale, unshaven, miserable kind of "Indoor Person." He has cold, clammy hands that are always touching you, and there's a ring of wetness around his mouth, because he's either constantly licking his face or he just secretes some kind of acidic creep face-juice. That person can be described as "moist." This is the only kind of human whose creepiness is at a level equal to that of the word moist. Any other time water is involved, the situation is "wet," but this particular mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling breed of human is, without a doubt, moist.
There's something about the phonetic construction of this word that forbids the speaker from saying it with a smile. Try it. At your most relaxed, saying "jowls" makes you automatically frown, and if you actively try to fight nature and smile while saying it, you end up with some kind of awkward, full-faced sneer. Like if Billy Idol had his lower jaw removed.
I hope this is as uncomfortable for you to look at as it was for me to Photoshop.What it is:
Droopy flaps of excess cheek fat. It hangs off your face, as if you're melting out of embarrassment over the fact that you have jowls.
Use it in an Awful Sentence:
"Those sure are some moist jowls you got there, Betty. You must come from good stock."
What it Actually Calls to Mind:
An embarrassing body disease caused by personal negligence, sort of like rickets. Something that says, "I'm at a pathetic disadvantage" but also, "it's probably because I don't take care of myself." Something ridiculous, like maybe your hair falls out because you don't wash yourself properly, or your head expands because you're not drinking enough water. "Jowls" just feels so appropriate when discussing an unfortunate family member. "Uncle Roger won't be coming to the family reunion, on account of his crippling jowls. His skin is molting off and his eyelashes are growing inwards because he never brushed his teeth."
I actually thought "bulbous" was also the name of a Pokemon, but when I Googled "Bulbous+Pokemon" I got a ton of anime dicks. I'm still not sure if that means I was right or not.
What it is:
Having a bulb, coming from a bulb, or bulb-shaped. It's strange, because I have no problem with the word "bulb" on its own, and "-ous" is generally inoffensive. But as soon as you put those two together? Word cancer.
Use it in an Awful Sentence:"I bet you I can hide a dollop of sour cream underneath one of the folds of my grandpa's bulbous neck fat."What it Actually Calls to Mind:
Something with male genitalia, right? I mean, it just has to be. Like a very technical name for some completely non-fun part of the male reproductive organ. An itchy tube that runs the length of the wiener, or a sticky membrane that scolds the testicles when they get out of place or whatever. It'll be every man's greatest fear to hear a doctor say, "I'm sorry, sir, but the cancer has spread and it seems you've now got an inflamed, tumor-ridden bulbous. We're going to have to cut it out and make you look at it."
Yolk is sort of a questionable entry on this list. The word I really hate is "Polk," as in, "James K.," but I'm pretty sure the rules I never invented for the article I just made up forbid me from using proper nouns. I couldn't exactly use Polk and I didn't want to substitute it for "poke," because that is, oddly enough, a word with which I have absolutely no qualm. So I settled on "yolk." It's the soft, very subtle "l" in "yolk" that makes me want to punch myself in the mouth whenever I say it.
Get that special someone a yolk bouquet if you're too much of a coward to tell her how much you hate her.What it is:
Yolk is the yellow part of an egg and, as a slightly tangential point, I am frankly shocked that it isn't a euphemism for something sexual yet. Shocked. Surely we can come up with something gross for which yolk can be the shorthand. (Get on it, Internet.)
If you touch it, yolk wobbles and leaves a thin, sticky, translucent film on your finger.
Use it in an Awful Sentence:"If you touch it, yolk wobbles and leaves a thin, sticky, translucent film on your finger.What it Actually Calls to Mind:
Yolk is awful to really say or hear. It's like the word "yuck" started choking whilst gobbling something unseemly. Combine that with the fact that every time I hear it I'm reminded of James K. Polk and you've got a real mess on your hands. A thin, sticky, translucent filmy mess on your hands.
"Slurp" is almost an onomatopoeia. I say almost because every time I say the word out loud I end up vomiting into my nose a little bit, and that particular sound isn't represented in the construction of this word.
It should be "slurplughaahhfuckitburns."
What it is:
"Slurp" is used to describe any eating or drinking act that is accompanied by a loud "sucking" sound, and if you thought Google Image Searching "Bulbous+Pokemon" brought back too many dicks for your taste, do not search "Slurp."
Use it in an Awful Sentence:"That anime starfish is slurping the shit out of Bulbosaur's dick."What it Actually Calls to Mind:
This is a very specific situation, but I still think it's appropriate. Imagine someone was eating a whole lot of pudding (rice, ideally, but really any kind of pudding that also has chunks of things floating in it). Let's say this person has a mouthful of hunky pudding when suddenly and for reasons never quite explained, they're mouth goes numb, and all of the partially chewed, saliva-ridden mouth goop starts slowly rolling down his chin, like a slow-motion avalanche or a lazy, creamy volcano of soft, white nightmares. That.
Somewhere between drooling and full-on puking lies slurping.
This is my least favorite word in the history of words. You can try to say it out loud, but there is just no comfortable way of saying it. Once I get to that "ulp" sound, my mouth wants to jump out of my face because it thinks my tongue is a pervert.
What it is:
Pulp is one of the rare words on this list where the thing it represents is almost as gross as the word itself. Pulp refers to those hunks of fruit excrement that float around mocking you, ruining an otherwise perfectly good glass of orange juice. A typical orange juice carton describes right on the label roughly how much pulp you can expect to find in your juice. This is what a standard orange juice section looks like in a supermarket.
It's why I hate shopping.
I spent some time in London a few years back to check out the sights and lay low from the cops for a while and I learned that, in England, they don't call the little chunks of orange flesh "pulp." They call it a "juicy bit," and orange juice containers are described as "No Juicy Bits" or "With Juicy Bits." It made me so much more comfortable. If London had better food and if the people weren't all so gray and miserable and hog-faced, I swear I'd move there just so I could avoid seeing "pulp" for the rest of my days.
Use it in an Awful Sentence:"The Heimlich maneuver isn't working. Daniel O'Brien, quickly reach down my son's throat and please extract the six ounces of moist pulp he is currently choking on. Use your hand."What it Actually Calls to Mind:
Think about a crotch. A man's crotch. He's wearing pants, but there's clearly a dick in those pants, so the pants bulge out a little bit. A crotch bulge, is what it's called. (We've talked about them before.) Now imagine that the crotch bulge is wet, as it's covered in a slime of some kind. That's pulp.
A pulp is a crotch bulge coated with slime.
Daniel O'Brien works as a yolk-wrangler and pulp-gobbler. He also does this.