From ‘Ooze’ to ‘Ointment’: Everything You Need to Know about ‘Gross’ Words

There’s a term for these feelings of utter repulsion when hearing certain words: ‘logomisia’.

This isn’t another technical blog on SEO or machine translation. Now don’t fret, I promise I’ll get back to those kinds of blogs, but a little variation from time to time never hurt anyone, right? Today, I’m going to talk about ‘gross’ words. An no, I don’t mean gross as in: ‘poop’ and other such words, but words that sound gross. Words that’ll send chills down your spine and will make your ears bleed. 

I stumbled upon this subject when listening to Sanders Vriendenteam on the Dutch radio station 3FM. Somewhere halfway through, Sander was talking about the BAFTA Young Game Designers Awards. He mentioned how he’d always thought the word ‘BAFTA’ sounded disgusting, and wondered if his audience and colleagues knew more words that made them want to yell ‘YUCK’ at the top of their lungs. 

And you guessed it: they listed quite a few. 

Even if you’re no native speaker of Dutch, just try to pronounce words like: ‘Grachtengordel’, which is the Canal District in Amsterdam, or ‘kokkelvocht’, which is a wonderful term for the juices that ooze out of crustaceans. Ah, there we go, a perfect example of a gross-sounding English word: ooze

I challenge you to think of a sentence containing the word ‘ooze’, which doesn’t make your skin crawl. I haven’t managed to do so. I’ve often seen the word being used to describe things that are meant to sound tasty, like those chocolate lava cakes, for example: ‘When you cut into the little cake, the gooey centre oozes out’. I’ll pass, thank you very much, and mind you, it’s quite an achievement to make a chocolate cake sound absolutely appalling to me.

Anyway, it got me thinking (and however childish it may be, these types of words are just as entertaining to me as they were when I was four), and so I decided to delve a little further into this delightfully disgusting subject.


So, apparently, there’s a term for these feelings of utter repulsion when hearing certain words: ‘logomisia’. Other terms I found during my online quest for information, were ‘word aversion’ and ‘verbal virus’. A post on the language blog Language Log described logomisia as “a feeling of intense, irrational distaste for the sound or sight of a particular word or phrase”. So it’s a type of aversion you cannot explain. But it somehow arises whenever you’re confronted with words like ‘ointment’ or ‘curds’. The latter is another one of those examples that might just manage to make me order a healthier choice on a menu. The Canadian masterpiece that is poutine has three main ingredients, namely French fries, gravy and cheese curds. Canadians are quite adamant about the importance of the curdiness, actually. Once again, I digress. So, sometimes the aversion is related to how a word sounds, but it can also be linked to its meaning. It can even be a combination of both.

Word aversion is very personal

Google is happy to provide you with countless studies on the grossest sounding words ever to be uttered (I’d like to propose ‘phlegm’). The problem, however, is that these studies don’t represent the complete picture. Furthermore, word aversion is very personal: who knows, maybe you’ve been craving oozy lava cakes and gloopy cheese curds ever since I first mentioned them. That would actually be a great example of the possibility of one person (in this case, you, the person who is wrong) having a positive emotional connection to a certain word, while someone else (in this case, me, the person who is correct) would rather stick their fingers in their ears and sing the ABCs to distract themselves. As I said, I never really got past that four-year-old stage in life.

This blog (which apparently is also considered to be a gross-sounding word) has covered quite a few gross words, but I’m extremely curious as to which words make YOU want to gag. So be sure to have a look at our Instagram account and our Twitter account and let me know which words you think should be Tipp-Exed out of the dictionary. 

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