What Words Do People Hate?

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Recently someone told me they hated the word “moist.” As a lover of language, I have a hard time hating any word (except racial slurs, of course). However, many sources consider it to be the most hated word in English. But why would people hate words such as moist, pus, and phlegm?

There is no one clear explanation why people hate some words. It may be their sound, associations with similar concepts, or even the facial muscles used to say a word. However, often, if asked, people cannot give a detailed explanation except that they don’t like it.

This article assumes people reading it hate racial slurs and at least one or more cuss, curse, or vulgar words, so they won’t be discussed. As to the rest, let’s get started.

What Words Do People Hate the Most?

Top 10 Words People Hate, 29 Words People Hate, The 50 Most Hated Words–the internet is filled with lists of webpages that claim they know what words people hate the most. So who should we trust—a website that has based its lists on those of other websites, or tens of thousands of people?

How about we trust the words of many? As reported in the New York Post, the language platform Preply surveyed tens of thousands of people. Here are the top 10 words and how many votes they received.

  1. Pus (9,799 votes)
  2. Phlegm (8,984 votes)
  3. Seepage (8,799 votes)
  4. Moist (8,234 votes)
  5. Splooge (7,893 votes)
  6. Fester (7,223 votes)
  7. Mucus (7,083 votes)
  8. Ooze (6,990 votes)
  9. Putrid (6,912 votes)
  10. Curd (6,344 votes)

Interestingly, moist came in at number four.

Why Do People Hate Some Words?

Linguists and other language scientists have competing theories as to why some words people hate consistently.

Semantical theory. This theory focuses on the emotions that people frequently link the word to. Although the word “moist” is used in many different contexts in the English language, it could be connected to sex and other bodily functions,  thoughts that some individuals may find unpleasant.

Sound theory. Sound, or phonological theory, argues that a word’s phonological structure—the “oy” sound, then the “ss” and “tt”—might make it seem unpleasant. The puckering of your lips needed to say “moi” has a slightly vulgar and uneasy quality to it.  (Repeatedly move your lips like that  in a public area, and it will make others around you uneasy.

Both of these theories were explored in a series of experiments on words people hate, such as moist, conducted by Paul H. Thibodeau of Oberlin College. His conclusion was that the word disgust was related to disgust of bodily functions (phlegm, puke), but not to words related to sex.

Why the disconnect? Maybe those of us who dislike the word “moist” don’t want to mention what really makes us dislike the word. The thinking is that people who dislike the word “moist” because it reminds them of words like puke don’t want to think about puke, phlegm, or snot.

Is There a Word for a Hatred of Words?

Not only is there a word for it; there is also a phrase for it. The more formal word is logomisia, but some prefer to call a hatred of words “word aversion.”

Combine two Greek roots—logo + misia—and you have logo/word + misia/hatred: word hatred. The opposite of logomisia is logophilia, or word love. Logophile is in the dictionary, but logomisia isn’t. I don’t find that surprising. How could people who compile dictionaries hate words?

So why haven’t they included logomisia? Maybe the editors of dictionary.com hate logomisia.

Can that be?

I recently wrote an article about what makes words funny. But if you want to hate on words, leave them in the comments. And if you like expanding your vocabulary, you might be a Lover of Words.

As always, likes and shares are greatly appreciated.

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