Preparing almost any recipe from “Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking” is sure to please my partner in matrimony, but in her presence I must take care how I phrase the dish. Last night for instance, I delved into Jaffrey’s gems and made “Spicy Grilled Chicken” and “Green Peas in Creamy Sauce.” I learned decades ago that “creamy” is one of quite a few words that sets off my sweetie’s logomisia, “disgust or hatred for certain words or a particular word.” That’s not to be confused with misophonia, which occurs when “certain sounds cause emotional or physiological responses,” like snoring, or fingernails on blackboards. According to “13 Weird-Sounding Words That Will Make You Cringe, “an online article by Carolyn Steber, “Linguists believe that there are three things that can influence a person’s aversion to words: connotation, sound, and social transmission.”
“Connotation” means words associated with inappropriateness, and “social transmission” is when you think others don’t like certain words. However, true logomisia is aroused by the third influencer: sound. A word like “moist,” with “oi” in it, “sounds like a viscous fluid that doesn’t easily ‘drop’.” “Creamy” also made Steber’s list, but “moist” is the new leader in hated words. In Brandon Specktor’s “This Is the Most Annoying Word in the English Language” online article described the Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll on “which words are the most loathed in the land” and claims the title for “moist,” supplanting ‘whatever’ which had been “most hated” for the previous twelve years.
A similar online article, “Worst 15 Jargon Words of 2020,” described “Buzzsaw, an online tool that strips the buzzwords out of press releases, speeches, and blog posts. Buzzsaw released their list of words to avoid based on their algorithms, and the topper was one that sets off my logomisia: “curated” (“a word that has been brutalized by Hipster culture”). Next was “content” (“Second only to the vacuum of space as the emptiest thing in the universe. It’s like calling literature or journalism ‘words’”). Also listed was “awesome” (“not since the devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar has something devalued as much as the word ‘awesome’”).
To my dismay, the term I’ve recently come to despise, “whatnot,” didn’t make the cut for Buzzsaw. Like “robust,” another overused term, it’s cropping up with annoying frequency — I can attest that the TV announcer for the Texas Ranger baseball team uses it a half dozen times per game. In truth, “whatnot” first appeared in print in the 1530s, meaning “anything,” according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, and also was “elliptical for ‘what I may not say,’ implying ‘everything else,’” as in “we kissed and whatnot.” A whatnot is also a piece of furniture “first attested in 1808, so named for the objects it is meant to hold.” Google’s N-Gram Viewer shows that use of “whatnot” spiked enormously in the 1930s-40s, declined halfway until 1980 when its re-resurgence began and continues, much to my aggravation.
That baseball announcer’s constant use of “whatnot” smacks of laziness to me, but am I being a snob? The American Heritage Dictionary defines “snob” as “a person who looks down on or snubs people who that person considers as being of a lower social class,” and as “a person who feels an undue sense of intellectual or aesthetic superiority.” I think the first meaning doesn’t fit me, but the second feels uncomfortably close.
The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of “snob” is 1781’s “a shoemaker or cobbler” because the OED lists each word’s meanings historically. Next came Cambridge slang for “a townsman” (1796) as opposed to “a gownsman,” or scholar.” Then “a person belonging to the ordinary or lower classes of society” (1831), “one who has little or no breeding” (1838) and “one who meanly or vulgarly admires and seeks to imitate or associate with those of superior rank or wealth” (1848). Finally, in 1911 it meant “one who despises those who are considered inferior in rank, attainment, or taste.” For the record, other OED definitions include “the last sheep to be sheared” (1945) and “a game of cricket played with a soft ball and thick stick in lieu of a bat” (1888), and a “snobling” is “a little, young, or petty snob,” a “snobdom” is an “aggregate of snobs,” and a snobographer” is “a writer on, or a describer of, snobs.”
That certainly describes Tatler, “a British magazine published by Conde Nast Publications focusing on fashion and lifestyle, as well as high society and politics” founded in 1901, according to Wikipedia, who said that Tatler’s “readership is the wealthiest of all Conde Nast publications,” and that “with a readership of around 160,000, it’s fair to say many readers have appeared within it at some point … so limited is the pool they fish from.” Their article on “Great Snobs of History” allowed me to see I’m not in the same league as Virginia Woolf (who described James Joyce’s “Ulysses” as “An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me; the book of a self-taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking and ultimately nauseating”), and English country house expert James Lees-Milne (who “abhorred the word ‘garage’ and referred to it as a ‘motor house’ instead. He once noted in his diary that he and a female friend had decided they preferred ‘the company of stupid, well-bred people to that of intelligent, common people’”).
“The Tatler Guide to Snobbery” lists what’s “Not OK” to be snobbish about (paper napkins, cheap chocolates, saying “perfume” instead of “scent,” and using liquid soap to wash your hands). The “OK” list (visible bra straps, talking in lifts, coloured loo paper, red cars, and cleaning your knife with your fork in mid-air”). And one other thing it’s OK to be snobby about: “People who don’t have any books in their house.”