Mind Matters: Words we dislike

I read that many people dislike these words: moist, bulbous, fester, mucous, vomit. I did a Facebook-pal survey of disliked words and found a huge variety, including discharge, phlegm, and unpack [as in unpack an idea].

Some of the folks I asked dislike filler terms such as basically and obviously. I dislike the pointless use of through as in "passengers flying through to Armidale".

I asked a friend of mine to put all the disliked words in a poem, and she countered with the idea of a story with all the words. She wrote an interesting story, but it is hard to stomach.

I watched a video of Brené Brown talking about the value of being vulnerable.

I dislike the term vulnerable. It seems weak to me. What she meant was to be open and brave socially. I like those words.

I feel unhappy about even writing the word jowls. My main association for that word is Richard Nixon, who had jowls and who used the word in conversation with his co-conspirators in the Watergate days.

People now use the term issues to mean problems because no one wants to admit to having problems.

I like the term problems, and I am keen to solve problems. I never want to solve a mathematical issue.

Some academics exhort teachers to reflect on their teaching. To me, reflecting is what a mirror does.

But I like the idea of teachers thinking about the impact of their teaching. I do that.

A psychologist wrote a book about how to train university students to be psychologically literate.

I told her that I disfavour that term because it seems like a low goal. I want my students to become capable of applying psychological principles.

Why do we dislike certain words?

For some words, such as ooze, the problem is that we feel squeamish about what the word represents.

We dislike other words, such as naturally, because they are pointless.

Still other words we dislike because we have bad emotional associations with them based on past experiences. If you are criticised as a child for saying that you are bored, you may come to dislike that word.

Other words we dislike because of their sound. I put moist in this category. Finally, some words, such as unpack, we dislike because they seem pretentious or inaccurate.

What words do you dislike? What led to your disliking the words?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.