Awhile ago, we asked readers to share their choices for the most beautiful sounding word in English. Nearly 500 of you shared your favorites, which included the lyrical, delightful, and uplifting. Some of you also shared your least favorite words. “I would like to vote ‘moist’ as the most gross sounding word in the English language,” wrote in Jack. Good point, Jack. It’s time to talk about the disgusting.
Many words that you might think are gross are onomatopoeic, like blat. Or, like moist, they stir up a synesthetic reaction. Others, of course, are just words that represent gross things. Does the word make them even more gross? Some of you think so.
Scientific experiments continue to indicate that sound symbolism has a real role in word formation, which suggests that the naming of objects isn’t completely arbitrary. Have you ever heard of the Bouba/Kiki effect? People from cultures around the world were asked to identify a spiked shape and a round shape with the name Bouba or Kiki—90 percent of people identified the spiky shape as Kiki and the round, blobby shape as Bouba.
But enough about word-science. We asked, and you delivered some of the most ick-inducing suggestions we’d ever heard. Thanks to your responses on Facebook and Twitter, we can now present 15 of the grossest words, one by one (so you can take time to shudder in-between each).