Moist! Chuckle! Slacks! Dollop!

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Below is a guest post from Kavita Pillay, co-host of the new Subtitle podcast.


Do you hate a seemingly normal word for reasons that you can't quite pinpoint?

Or, are there words that you love to say out loud?

If so, the Subtitle podcast (more on us below) wants to hear from you!

On Nov. 19th, we're airing an episode on words we love…and love to hate. From reading the comments section of Language Log, we've noticed that Language Log fans and readers have very well articulated opinions when it comes to word aversion, word rage, and word affinity. Now you can share those opinions with the world.

Here's what to do:

  1. Open the voice memos app on your phone
  2. Record a 30 second (or so) message about a word (or words) you love or loath
  3. Feel free to include your name if you feel comfortable doing so, and / or a brief explanation about how the word(s) in question make you feel.
  4. Once you complete the recording, email it to subtitlepod@gmail.com, and we may use it in our upcoming episode on word affinity / word aversion

DEADLINE: Monday, Nov. 11th

Feel free to share this request with others. We'd especially love to hear from people for whom English is not their native language. And if you are completely perplexed as to why anyone would love or hate a normal word, then that's all the more reason to tune into our Nov. 19th episode.

A little about us: Subtitle is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them, co-hosted by Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay. It's the successor podcast to The World in Words, which previously aired on PRI's The World. Funding for Subtitle comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities and excerpts from every episode will begin airing this fall on NPR's Here & Now.

Many thanks, and we look forward to your voice memos!


Above is a guest post by Kavita Pillay.

I think LLOG first used the term "word rage" in 2005 ("Word rage outside the Anglosphere", 11/4/2005), to describe extreme anger caused by spellings, words, word uses, or phrases that are viewed as violations of linguistic norms. Some posts on the topic:

"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
"Noah Webster", 2/5/2008
"Cognitive therapy for word rage", 3/14/2008
"Angry linguistic mobs with torches", 4/16/2008
"Annals of word rage", 5/2/2009
"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
"Ultimate word rage", 7/17/2010
"Annals of word rage", 1/28/2011
"Hated words", 7/1/2011

We first discussed "word aversion" in 2007 ("Ask Language Log: The moist panties phenomenon", 8/20/2007), and many times since, along with occasional references to the (apparently less intense) phenomenon of "word attraction". Word aversion is a strong emotional reaction, usually described as disgust, to certain words or phrases — and unlike word rage, there doesn't seem to be any social or interpersonal component:

"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
"Moist aversion: the cartoon version", 8/27/2008
"Word attraction", 5/13/2009
"Word aversion and attraction in the news", 5/19/2009
"The 'moist' chronicles, continued", 8/8/2009
"Six words", 7/23/2010
"Toot chuckle lil' kidnap Snooki", 2/23/2011
"Hydrated and delicious", 12/14/2012
"Literary moist aversion", 12/27/2012
"Malady on word aversion in Slate", 4/1/2013
"Condensation and displacement in word aversion", 4/3/2013
"Crispy Curly Noodle Cakes", 8/21/2013
"Word aversion science", 6/24/2015



4 Comments »

  1. Ray said,

    November 2, 2019 @ 10:14 pm

    I get all huffy and shuddery at the word "sip." (written or spoken. I don't know why.)

  2. Rose Eneri said,

    November 3, 2019 @ 9:21 am

    This reminds me of the questionnaire James Lipton used at the end of his interviews on "Inside the Actors Studio." Mr. Lipton would ask the guest for their favorite and least favorite words. Invariably, the guest would respond not so much with a word, as with a concept, like love or peace. The only answer I remember was during one of the best interviews, when Robin Williams responded that his favorite (I think) word was "cloaca."

    Personally, I very much dislike when people pronounce English words stressed on a non-sense syllable, even if they might be following English "rules" for stress. We eLECT presidents by having have eLECtions, then eLECtors vote in the eLECtoral college. NOT the elecTORal college. Ever time I hear elecTORal I want to scream.

  3. Andreas Johansson said,

    November 3, 2019 @ 10:22 am

    If, as per various comments in older threads, "moist" was at one time much used in ads for baking products, might that in itself have helped drive aversion? Over-used marketing terms would seem obvious targets for dislike.

    There are various words (e.g. "wholesome") which I dislike because I associate them with people or attitudes I dislike, but I don't think I have any word aversions in the sense discussed here.

  4. Ray said,

    November 3, 2019 @ 11:06 am

    @Rose — I saw one of those "inside the actors studio" episodes where meryl streep was asked what her least favorite word was, and, without hesitation, she said "moist."

    I forget if he asked her for her favorite word…

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