What Do You Think About Moist Panties?

We were talking about condiments. Those we like, those we don’t. Mayonnaise was up for debate.

“I like having mayonnaise on my sandwich,” said my friend Christine. “I need to have something to moisten my bread.”

Even those who were not averse to mayonnaise recoiled at this. Every other detail from this conversation has been forgotten except this: people still remember Christine and her moistened bread. The source of the discomfort seems to come not from the condiment or the use of it on a sandwich, but from her choosing the word “moisten”.

“Moist,” it seems, is a word that provokes a harsh reaction out of many people. There are several such words that have a near-universal ability to cause people hearing them to cringe. Not because they’re offensive or used incorrectly or slang or whatever. There’s just something about the words themselves that many people fund fundamentally wrong. Another top word in this category is “panties”.

Here is an article from the Language Log blog about this phenomenon.

Summing up the linguistic side of this word-willies phenomenon, we observe that some people develop a strong aversion to certain words, without any obvious reason. The words in question are not taboo in the culture at large. Women seem to be more likely to have this reaction, though perhaps they are just more likely to talk and write about it.. Sounds and sound associations may play a role (the diphthong usually spelled ‘oi’, certain consonant clusters, etc.); semantic associations may play a role (slimy textures, lower-body garments like panties and slacks); but the process seems pretty random and erratic, also hitting on random-seeming words like hardscrabble, baffle and tissue. Nevertheless, certain specific words (such as moist and panties in English) seem to be frequent victims. This lexical specificity could be because the process is more deterministic than it seems, or because of cultural transmission that doesn’t reach the threshold of creating new lexical taboos, but does create a widely-shared aversion to particular words well above chance levels.

they have there several people giving examples of words they personally dislike in this manner. None of them list the word that does it for me:


I despise that word. I hate typing it, reading it, hearing it, and saying it. I have no problem with the creatures, either as animals or as tasty tasty food. Being called a chicken is more of a problem because of the word rather than because of the accusation of cowardice. I just can’t stand it. I don’t know why.

Do you have a word? What is it? And what do you think about moist panties?

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13 Responses to What Do You Think About Moist Panties?

  1. David Thiel says:

    Mine would be “extrude,” and I know the reason for it. There was an old “Nova” documentary about how snack foods were developed and created, and at one point they started using the word “extrude” to describe the manufacturing process.

    Can’t say that I feel anything about “chicken,” but it reminds me of the “Back to the Future” sequels in which Marty McFly had an almost pathological reaction to being called one.

    What I think about “moist panties” is that you’ve just set yourself to get a lot of search hits. Mostly from Japan. They will be disappointed.

  2. Dave says:

    Dave, I’m not sure they’ll be any more disappointed in what the find here than my usual visitors are.

  3. Topher says:

    Moist panties? Usually I have to pay double for that…

  4. esthela says:

    I really dislike the word “soiled” and dont make me put it in front of the word panties. As long as theY keep their distance within the sentence, it’s less repulsive.

  5. sistawoman says:

    Two words that I don’t like are Happy Birthday however they seem to apply to you today.
    Happy Birthday Dave.

  6. David Thiel says:

    Oh, crumbs! And I even had it on my calendar! Belated happy birthday, Dave!

    Back on subject, we were watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother last night, and there was a running gag about Alison Hannigan’s character and her discomfort whenever hearing the word “moist.”

  7. Blasterhappy says:

    Happy Birthday!

  8. pronoblem says:

    Happy Birthday +1

  9. Cap says:


    That’s a nasty word. On the other hand, I can totally see it as a band name.

  10. Happy b-day Dave, and funny comment from Dave T on web hits. I can’t deny there’s something unsettling about hearing ‘moist panties’, as I cannot avoid conjuring visions of dirty old men or youths headed down the incarceration path. And while I hate a couple words that refer to women’s anaotomy, thay are considered vulger anyway and outside the scope of what you ask. Normal words that make me cringe are leakage and toes, no affiliation. Oh, I have my reasons due to the extended family, but I’ll spare your readers.

  11. Ken Lowery says:

    British slang, usually the sexual kind. “Snog,” “norks,” etc… it’s as if the British are looking for the ugliest words possible. But then I don’t like “og” words in general; it took me months and months of frequent exposure before I could say/type the word “blog” without feeling gross/silly.

  12. TJ says:

    I shudder at the terms “dialogue” or “touch base” personally. I’ll keep my base to myself, thank you very much!

  13. Marc says:

    I have used mouthfeel in the past, and probably will in the future, as it is a necessary descriptor for beer tasting. I don’t like it either, though, and less so now that I’ve dwelt on it.