The Most Disliked English Word

When oranges came in, a curious proceeding was gone through. Miss Jenkyns did not like to cut the fruit; for, as she observed, the juice all ran out nobody knew where; sucking (only I think she used some more recondite word) was in fact the only way of enjoying oranges; but then there was the unpleasant association with a ceremony frequently gone through by little babies; and so, after dessert, in orange season, Miss Jenkyns and Miss Matty used to rise up, possess themselves each of an orange in silence, and withdraw to the privacy of their own rooms to indulge in sucking oranges.” (Cranford, Mrs Gaskell)

I dread to think what Miss Jenkyns would have thought of the Oxford English Dictionary’s search for the most disliked word in the English language. Apparently “moist” is topping the poll at the moment, but to be honest, anything could win. I can’t honestly say it’s a word I use much – I tend towards “damp” – so I doubt I’d miss it, although it would make the judging on Bake Off a bit more interesting, I suppose. I have to admit that I’m surprised some wag hasn’t started a campaign to get “Monday” top of the list, but you never know*. And as far as I know, “suck” hasn’t even made the list at all.

It made me wonder what words in English I disliked – given that I seem to spend more time lamenting lovely old words that don’t seem to be used anymore – and I was rather struck by just how difficult it was to think of one I really, intensely, disliked. I find words like “incentivize” irritating, because as far as I’m concerned they are not proper words; there are perfectly correct terms utilising reflexive verbs that nobody else seems to want to use any more**. And don’t get me started on “burglarize” – what’s wrong with “to burgle”? But this is veering close to words that are used incorrectly, rather than just a word that is disliked.

There are words I almost never use – some exceedingly graphic obscenities produced in the heat of the moment aside – and words I use all the time. My current favourite is “twerp”. No idea of its origins, but I like it and it’s a child-friendly term of mild irritation about someone else’s behaviour which I’ve found useful over the years. I also don’t want to fall into the trap of voting for a word that is politically loaded, like “conservative” or “republican”, nor do I wish my choice to make a statement about me (apart from being a word I really don’t like).

I’m afraid all I can manage is lamentable. No wait, I actually like that word….

* I appreciate I may have started something now.
** “To give incentive to” being my preferred choice


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