A few months ago, we asked readers to share their choices for the most beautiful sounding word in English. Nearly 500 of you shared your favorites, which included the lyrical, delightful and uplifting.
Some of you also shared your least favorite words. “I would like to vote ‘moist’ as the most gross sounding word in the English language,” wrote in Jack. “‘Bob’ I think evokes something in most people’s minds actually… kind of round and not so attractive,” writes Daniel.
Many words for the gross are onomatopoeic, like blat, or, like Jack’s choice, they stir up a synesthetic reaction. Scientific experiments indicate that sound symbolism is at play in word formation. In determining the Bouba/Kiki Effect, people from cultures around the world were asked to identify a spiked shape and a round shape with the name Bouba or Kiki. 90 percent of people identified the spiky shape as Kiki and the round, blobby shape as Bouba.
Now it’s your turn to share your least favorite word. Instead of exploring euphony this time, let’s turn up the volume on cacophony. Tell us the most gross, icky, blah-ful words you find in our usually delightful language to round out our exploration of phonaesthetics.