Moist is an indisputably gross word. The way it looks on the page is displeasing, like someone meant to write “oink” and failed terribly. Hearing it conjures up mental images of sweaty butts and damp towels and sticky, humid afternoons. The way the word feels in one’s throat is worst of all, the way it travels from the lips to the back of the throat and front again. A tiny gag-and-barf every time. We all agree: the word moist is awful.
But is it, as many have claimed, the grossest word in the English language? No. Not by a long shot. Here are eight words as gross or grosser than moist, in no particular order:
Oh my god, hymen. Hymen is so bad. It immediately makes you think of a hymen breaking (ow), which might have been during sex (gross) or some sort of aerobic activity (also disgusting). It also sounds like an archaic medical term, like we should have stopped growing them when homo sapiens discovered fire. And have you ever heard an even remotely-positive anecdote that included the word hymen? You have not, because it’s awful.
When babies and children giggle, it’s cute. When literally anyone else giggles, it’s gross. Unless you are in the back of a sixth-grade classroom passing notes, giggling is absolutely unacceptable. It reminds everyone of creeps. And the word sounds like a burp. If you mumble the word giggle, it sounds like a weird burp.
Nothing good happens while you squat. It’s uncomfortable. You might be pooping in the woods. And “Squ-“ is an objectively gross word combination. Which brings us to…
Squirt also feels like a mini-vom in your mouth. Does anything nice ever squirt? No. It’s always some sort of weird juice or bodily fluid, Speaking of which…
Plenty of gross things have un-gross words attached. Bile is gross, but the word bile isn’t so bad. Same with garbage and mold. All of these are plain, no-nonsense words we can comfortably use to describe the ickier things in life. But pus is awful. It’s the first half of “pussy” (be an adult and say “vagina,” please, “pussy” is creepy as hell) and that ending s-sound seems to go on forever. Pussssss. It’s pusssssing out of you, the pussss is getting everywhere. “Pu” is also a pretty gross sound, but “puberty” gets a pass for being funny. Pus has no redemption.
I know, I know, orange peels, potato peels, the peals of bells, all of these things seem positive and homey. But say the word peel out loud five or six times. While “moist” actually gets better with repetition, “peel” gets worse and worse.
See: the description of “giggle”. This is a trash word meant for children and their handlers. Weirdly, the plural makes it okay. Say bubble, you feel like an idiot. Say bubbles, you’re probably describing champagne you classy mofo.
Are you seventy? Are you reflecting on that time you got high with members of The Grateful Dead? No? Then don’t say doobie.
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Elizabeth Logan is a writer and improviser. She likes chunky peanut butter and her Twitter handle is @lizzzielogan