If you could clinically diagnose me with something, you could say I suffer from “word aversion.” I’m sure everyone has words that they don’t like, but for me, there are words that actually make me shudder. The word at the top of that list is…moist. I’m not the only one, because apparently a lot of people (mostly women) can’t stand this word either. And please, now that I’ve shared my #1 least favourite word with you, don’t haunt me with it. My friends do this all the time – “Wanna go see a movie? We should get popcorn and a moist drink.” “I hate my boyfriend. But if he left, I would cry huge, moist tears.” “Let’s go to the gym…I want my shirt to get nice and sweaty and moist. Hahahaha!!”
Very funny. That’s like sending a person who has a phobia of spiders a giant box of them for Christmas. Way to be sensitive of mental illness…damn friends.
Why don’t I like this word? Well, it’s hard to explain. I suppose it’s a combination of the images I associate with this word as well as the way it rolls off the tongue. It’s just not pleasant all around. The word makes me think of…pure gross. Saunas. Moldy showers. Bread that’s been sitting on the counter for a week in the middle of a humid heat wave (think: bread that makes sweat droplets on the inside of the bag). Vaginas.
There are a few other words that disgust me too. They are: “lanyard,” “puberty,” “dubious,” and “cuticle.” Yuck.
Where does this word aversion come from? I suppose it’s genetic. A friend, who I will call Gretchen (who was my sister’s best friend growing up and witnessed my family’s strangeness first-hand) reminded me of how crazy my family is. She told me that I should write about my family’s “word censoring” as a blog topic…which got me thinking. Is that why words affect me so deeply? Just like someone has a predisposed genetic diathesis when it comes to drinking (i.e. if a person’s parents are alcoholics, the child has a higher chance of becoming an alcoholic too), is word aversion genetically predisposed? Well kids, I will tell you a merry little tale and let you decide.
Since as early as I can remember, there were always certain words that, according to my parents, were never to be uttered. I’m not talking about swear words – which, of course, you would be struck by lightning if you even thought about – but words that, according to my parents, “don’t sound nice.” The following chart illustrates the “proper names” for “unpleasant” words.
What normal humans say What my family says
Puke Throw up
Crap/Poop Bowel movement
(When phoning the house) “Is K-money there?” “May I speak to K-money please?”
I will never forget the time during my 10th birthday party, where I was so wonderfully happy and hyped up on sugar, surrounded by friends and arcade games. My mother was bringing out my birthday cake (ice cream, my fave!), my birth was being celebrated in song, and I was grinning ear to ear. My birthday is in the summer, which means that I hardly ever had friends attend (most kids go out of town in the summer, if you didn’t know). This year was different. We’d had my birthday early, so most of my friends could come. I was ecstatic.
Anyways, my mom was bringing out the birthday cake. Kids were singing. My friend Wilhelmina, rubs her stomach, and exclaims, “I’m so full, if I eat birthday cake I might puke!” My mom stops dead in her tracks. The singing stops. The candles stop burning (this didn’t actually happen, but it sounds more dramatic). My mom throws Wilhelmina a very stern look, and says, “Excuse me, but we say throw up.” I never lived this story down. Years after, my friends would always quote my mother with “we say throw up” at every opportunity. And I would apologize time and time again for my family’s strangeness.
Another family “word rule” that must be addressed is telephone etiquette. Before cellphones were invented, my friends would call my house to chat. Like normal teenage girls do. It’s part of healthy child development. They learned soon, however, that if they said, “Hi! Is k-money there?” my mom would respond with a “Yes, she’s here.” And then there’d be silence. My friends would say, “Okay, um…” and my mother would respond with, “Oh, would you like to speak with her? It sounded like you were merely asking if she was home.” No shit, mom. Why would someone call just to see if I was home? I think my mom was trying to instill a manners revolution upon my friends, one at a time. I would ask her time and time again to “be normal!” when people phoned me, but she would just respond with, “I’m confused when they call. If they don’t have proper phone etiquette, they shouldn’t call at all.” Which is precisely what happened. Imagine a poor, lonely, teenage girl without friends calling to chat every hour? No wonder I’m so messed up.
On one hand, this whole word censorship thing is quite genius. My family censored words because they sounded “too harsh,” which really translates to words sounding cacophonous. It appears to be a very intellectual reason. On the other hand, it just sounds plain stupid. To this day, I still feel like I’m doing something wrong when I say, “I have to pee.” I get a pang of guilt deep inside me that I’m sure will stay with me for the rest of my life. And as Gretchen so wisely pointed out, it’s quite hilarious that my mother insisted that we call snot “doobies.” Really mom, are you trying to introduce us to drugs? Even now, as full grown twenty-something, my mother still corrects my words in conversation. And she wonders why I don’t like talking to her…
Next post, I will talk about activities that my family forbade me to do. No I’m not talking about sex, drugs or drinking. I’m talking about far more dangerous things like going to the movies. Bowling. Dancing. Halloween. If you want to hear more about how I was deprived a childhood, stay tuned kiddies.