Hated words

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The most recent xkcd distills a concentrated essence of word rage and word aversion triggers:

Word rage and word aversion are basically quite different phenomena, I think, but they generally get mixed up together as responses to questions like "what words do you hate?"

A partial list of past posts on word aversion and word rage and some related topics, mixed up as they are in the strip:

"Disgust for voices and accents", 8/4/2004
"Word rage outside the Anglosphere?", 11/4/2005
"Shooting too good", 11/5/2005
"Spell simply and carry a big stick", 12/21/2005
"Pioneers of word rage", 3/5/2006
"Word rage on the witness stand", 3/24/2006
"Language anger management", 2/6/2007
"Do you recognize this rat…", 2/7/2007
"Is it sinking into your thick skull, you high school drop-out?", 2/7/2007
"Word rage–not!", 2/8/2007
"The social psychology of linguistic naming and shaming", 2/27/2007
"Ask Language Log: The moist panties phenomenon", 8/20/2007
"Don't say 'tin' to Rebecca, you know how it upsets her", 8/20/2007
"Morning mailbag", 9/10/2007
"The long moist tail", 10/6/2007
"From cringe to offense", 10/25/2007
"Noah Webster", 2/5/2008
"Cognitive therapy for word rage", 3/14/2008
"Angry linguistic mobs with torches", 4/16/2008
"Moist aversion: the cartoon version", 8/27/2008
"The 'meh' wars, part 2", 11/24/2008
"Prejudices, egocentrism, impositions, and intransigence", 4/21/2009
"Annals of word rage", 5/2/2009
"Word attraction", 5/13/2009
"Word aversion and attraction in the news", 5/19/2009
"Prescriptivist pain", 6/17/2009
"Word rage wins again", 7/12/2009
"Gricean bagel rage", 8/17/2010
"Ask Language Log: Prescriptivism in Europe", 8/21/2009
"Phrase rage", 11/24/2009
"The fire next time", 5/22/2010
"Ultimate word rage", 7/17/2010
"Six words", 7/23/2010
"Annals of word rage", 1/28/2011
"Toot chuckle lil' kidnap Snooki", 2/23/2011


  1. Emily said,

    July 1, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

    I don't think we've seen "yiff" as an aversive word before– possibly because it just doesn't come up that much outside of furry forums.

    Also, it's interesting how several of these aversive words are portmanteaus or blends: bromance, guesstimate, frenemy, irregardless.

  2. Dan Hemmens said,

    July 2, 2011 @ 7:10 am

    Perhaps I'm just being overly picky, but the failure to distinguish between the two phenomena was part of why this comic fell really flat for me. It just didn't seem to be *saying* anything about either of them.

  3. Seth Grimes said,

    July 2, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    Dan, I don't see that the comic claims to say anything about anything. It's LL that read a topic into it.

  4. Emily said,

    July 2, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

    If this critical post is correct, the words in the comic come from a "words you hate" thread on the xkcd forums, and Munroe is writing it primarily to amuse/torment his forumites:

  5. Keith M Ellis said,

    July 2, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

    I think that the amuse/torment angle is secondary to why LL has referenced it: that people get word rage and dislike certain words viscerally (for no intellectualized reason) is both interesting and (can be) funny.

    Unfortunately, I went to the forum thread for the particular comic (and the forum is no longer linked from the xkcd page) to see the reaction to the comic. Almost no one seemed aware of word rage and word aversion as areas of interest, particularly the latter.

    And, predictably, the thread immediately became yet another rehash of the prescriptivism vs descriptivism argument along with the even-more-tedious examples of poorly rationalized peevish word-rage. It made me want to his someone with a hammer, possibly myself.

    So, of course, I registered for the forum and posted.

    Mostly because I wanted to explain the comic—only one person had posted explaining word rage and word aversion…but their post was oblique and merely linked to LL. I thought that was a shame and something more explicit was called for.

    Predictably, however, I couldn't resist responding to a couple of the more egregiously false assertions made in defense of prescriptivist peeving. (Did you know that English letterforms, spelling, and pronunciation have all not changed very much since Middle English? And that "ancient Greek" is much more powerful and efficient in denoting, in general, nuance we can merely ambiguously connote in English?)


  6. Cecily said,

    July 4, 2011 @ 8:51 am

    For anyone who is a little confused:

    The official/fan forum is called the Echo Chamber. Until recently, there was a link at the top left of xkcd pages to it: http://echochamber.me/index.php. The specific comic mentioned here is discussed in Individual XKCD Comic Threads >0919: "Tween Bromance". The forum also has a linguistics section that can be interesting (though generally more amateur than LL).

    The xkcd-sucks blog exhaustively discusses every fault and weakness they see in each comic (I don't understand their motivation). See Emily's post for a link.

    Somewhere between the two is xkcd Slightly Worse, where people take each comic and adapt it: http://xkcdsw.com/

    There may well be others, but my son is not on hand to confirm.

  7. On language, reason, and lego | Garic Gymro said,

    August 18, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    […] and how strong the emotions can be. Language Log, not unexpectedly, has quite a few posts on this topic. I have a strong suspicion that's it's partly connected to perceived group membership. […]

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