Many people hate the word moist. Indeed, it has become almost expected to hate the word moist, with its connotations of limp handshakes, cloying Uriah Heep types, and creeping damp. A recent study found that the aversion was real, reported the New York Times: “Data from the current studies point to semantic features of the word—namely, associations with disgusting bodily functions—as a more prominent source of peoples’ unpleasant experience.”
But here’s the thing: I like moist. And not just because of good associations with the groundbreaking Moistworks blog, either. I think moist just needs better PR.
I like it because I like to bake, and because there is no substitute in English for the appetizing textural quality it evokes. It’s probably the word I search most often in Google. Dense, fudgy brownies; a cake whose crumbs adhere lusciously to the tines of one’s fork; succulent roasts. (Damp—which, apparently, people also find repulsive—is a Briticism that is, to this baker, equally appealing. Perhaps because of the climate, UK recipe books are full of “Drenched Lemon Cakes” and “Damp Gingerbreads” and “Sticky Toffee Puddings”—delicious, no?) If you want a world of chalky brownies and dry meatloaf, I suppose that’s your prerogative.
To me, moist seems … fecund, yes. But that’s not off-putting. Think of rich, loamy soil or shaded areas full of moss and ferns. It’s the most exact word for these things; whatever bodily function these fastidious people find so “disgusting” could doubtless be described in any number of ways. Besides, what are we so afraid of? I don’t want to sound like one of those repulsive cartoon bears obsessed with toilet paper, but a little earthiness wouldn’t hurt most of us.
Clammy, however, I won’t fight you on.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.