The edge of wetness

Back in the 90s, there was a pre-post-grunge band from British Columbia named Moist, and after reviewing a handful (okay, three) of their songs, I have concluded that they are not responsible for pushing the word “moist” toward its current status as one of the grossest words in existence:

When it comes to nasty words, moist is the biggest offender. But what exactly is moist? Moist is when you step in a warm puddle wearing socks and for the next hour, your feet clop on the hardwood floor and your socks stick to your heels for a split second with every step. Moist is taking your clothes out of the dryer 10 minutes too early and feeling that lingering wetness rest upon your skin. Moist is a kitchen sponge that holds room-temperature sink water from the day before. Moist is when you wear your jacket in a hot room for too long and sweat droplets start to quiver from the pores under your arms. Most importantly, moist is gross.

I think part of the problem with “moist” is that it’s so often paired with “towelette,” a word which also grates on the ears, a word which is supposed to be a diminutive of “towel,” in every other context an instrument of dryness.

Ben Greenman of The New Yorker has an alternative explanation:

“People hate the word moist,” he says. “Without the word, it would leave bakers, meteorologists and amateur pornographers lacking for what to do. I think it’s the texture of the word.”

And at least Greenman doesn’t blame Canadian bands, even vaguely grungy ones.


  1. Jeffro »

    6 January 2013 · 8:50 pm

    I think damp is worse – partly because of it’s close association with moldy.

  2. XRay »

    6 January 2013 · 9:47 pm

    Maybe it is the company I keep, always risky, but when I think of moist, it is none of the meanings you mention. I’ll now shut up.

  3. Francis W. Porretto »

    7 January 2013 · 3:33 am

    Moist is the nature of the world’s grandest beasts, and it shall not be taken from them!

  4. McGehee »

    7 January 2013 · 8:36 am

    I used to get chuckles by coming in from a driving rainstorm, myriad tiny Niagaras running off from my hat and coat, and remarking, “It’s a tad moist out there today.”

  5. Brett »

    7 January 2013 · 8:55 am

    But what do they think of the word in Sludge Falls?

  6. Tatyana »

    7 January 2013 · 9:46 am

    Moist, in my mind, is the filler of a pie that was kept in an oven for exactly right time

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