the dirty wordy

Screen shot 2012-12-10 at 4.25.38 PMmoist.

i hate that word. it crawls under my skin and makes my whole body recoil.

i don’t know the etymology behind it or where the shift in word culture happened, but according to huff po and a continuing and entirely unscientific case study of my peers, i am not alone.

in fact, there is a word for my visceral repulsion to moist: logomasia.

(the fact that the word to describe a strong dislike for a particular word, sounds like a horribly deforming venereal disease is a cruel and probably hilarious joke between the linguists who created it.)

according to the language log, reactions to words, such as logomasia, can be attributed to the relationships between language, emotion, memory and something equally gross-sounding, called “mouthfeel” or the way a word feels in your mouth (for wordy people they sure lack creativity).

to a degree it makes sense, the mouthfeel around moist (which is quite possibly the grossest sentence i’ve ever written) is awful. the rounding of the “m”, the “oi” in the middle and the crusty sounding “st” at the end…i actually FEEL gross saying it.

this brings up an interesting point though. what about the mouthfeel of other questionable words? words, for example, that sound or feel dirty but actually aren’t.

words like conch.

tell me you don’t hear that word and giggle. it feels dirty. will you pass me the conch? have you ever blown a conch? you’re such a dirty conch. loofa is another great one. i saw her loofa. what’s up with your loofa? have you cleaned your loofa lately?

and my recent favorite, penetrate. it is the perfect dirty non-dirty word. let me elaborate. penetrate be defined in the sexual sense or as successfully forcing a way into or through something…for example a brand in retail store. which brings me to why it’s a new favorite: my boss. without fail he uses the word penetrate two to four times a day. “what’s our penetration ratio today?” “did we penetrate that bloomingdales location yet?” not only does he say it in meetings, but he will animatedly yell it across an entire cubicle area…without the slightest hint of humor. i can’t help but erupt into a sophomoric snit of giggles…EVERY TIME.

as time evolves (and conch becomes an actual dirty word…just you watch) it will be interesting to see what other words stray into the nether regions of english lexicography (like gesticulate, it’s right on the cuff). until then, the biggest question remains what word will etymologists come up with for non-dirty dirty words. if logomasia is any indication, the word will be filthy.

and you will like it.

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One thought on “the dirty wordy

  1. Thought provoking and hilarious. Several years ago, my oldest grandchild was taking a bath one evening. I was in the next room reading something earthshaking (I’m sure) when I heard him ask his grandmother a simple question, “grandma what’s this”. I heard his grandmother proceed to explain the nature and use of the loofa. At the conclusion of his grandmother’s remarks, my grandson squealed: “grandma I just sucked on a loofa”. I will never remember that moment in the same way again after reading this post! Who knew etymology could be so interesting.

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