Image: Britney feels your pain.
No matter how innocently you use it, there’s just something off about the word “moist”.
“This cake is so moist!” Squirm. “Your skin is looking all dewy and moist!” Shudder. “That rain last night made my garden so moist.” Dry retch.
Sorry about that — this post probably should have come with a trigger warning. Proceed with caution, there’s going to be a lot of “moist”-ure ahead.
So how did one word — five little letters — incur the wrath of the entire English-speaking world (well, a good part of it anyway)? Is it the unavoidable sexual connotation? Is it the unsettling "oi" sound? Or is it because nobody can resist the urge to utter "moist" without making an appropriately creepy eyebrow gesture?
A team of researchers bravely volunteered to explore the aversion to That Word, and their findings are quite interesting.
To start with, the /oi/ sound seemed to have little bearing on the reaction among 'moist-averse' people, who comprised 21 per cent of the 400 participants in the study. (Post continues after gallery.)
Similar-sounding words like "foist", "rejoiced" and "hoist" didn't seem to bother the majority of this group; and when the researchers asked the non-moist-averse group why they thought the word made other people uncomfortable, few mentioned its sound.
It seems context, and "semantic connotations", is the main determinant of how people react to moist. For example, the word caused the most aversion when it followed unrelated positive words like "paradise", or — surprise, surprise — words related to sex (like "fuck"). It caused less offence when it was preceded by unrelated negative words, or 'food primers'.