Cringeworthy

Disgusting

Certain words might make us shudder, wince, or even gag. Soft vowels roll into hard-edged consonants creating an earful of sound that make us cringe. More than the auditory sounds, the words can elicit strong physical and visual associations that make them especially off-putting. We feel ‘vomit.’ We hear ‘phlegm.’ We see ‘pus’ (ah, middle school). We see and feel ‘gelatinous’ in the tomato aspic on our grandmother’s Thanksgiving table. And don’t even get me started on moist. On a diet? Put a little sign in front of any tempting treat that reads ‘moist, and glistening with icing.’ I promise, you’ll have no trouble resisting.

If the expertise of the internet is to be believed, many of us English speakers share an aversion to similar words; the cultural roots of these words are worth examining. Notice how many of these words have to do with body parts, bodily functions, sex, or womanhood. Our Puritan aversions are writ large via the words that make most of us squirm.

Here’s the list:

  • Glisten
  •                                                                                                                                                  

  • Panties
  •                                                                                                                                                  

  • Moist
  •                                                                                                                                                      

  • Curd
  •                                                                                                                                                    

  • Pus
  •                                                                                                                                                          

  • Jowl
  •                                                                                                                                                        

  • Gelatinous
  •                                                                                                                                                        

  • Pustule
  •                                                                                                                                                          

  • Congeal
  •                                                                                                                                                          

  • Phlegm
  •                                                                                                                                                              

  • Bosom
  •                                                                                                                                                            

  • Cataract
  •                                                                                                                                                  

  • Doughy
  •                                                                                                                                                            

  • Dingle
  •                                                                                                                                                          

  • Areola
  •                                                                                                                                                                

  • Quim
  •                                                                                                                                                                

  • Coitus
  •                                                                                                                                                                

  • Follicle
  •                                                                                                                                                        

  • Seepage

One of the assignments I used to give students in order to help them solidify new vocabulary involved them writing a paragraph using each of the words. Always one to lead by example, I thought I’d set myself the same task. I gave myself permission to conjugate if necessary.

And yes, I’m blushing.

Absentmindedly, the king picked at his pus-filled follicle. Scratching it raw, he wiped the moist fluid on his rich pantaloons. Reaching for a slice of warm, yeasty bread, he spread it thickly with a layer of the best black caviar in the land. A moist curd tumbled out of his beard, down his pustuled jowl, landing just to the left of his areola. Squinting his one good eye, the other clouded by a pillowy cataract, the king rooted around and plucked the doughy gem from his bosom. As he held it before him, between his forefinger and thumb, it glistened in the torch light. Despite the fact that it might have lingered in his beard since breakfast (given its congealed consistency) he popped it into his mouth anyway. The seepage from its gelatinous center burst into his mouth and reminded him of that predictable result of coitus; something between quim and phlegm. Despite his high standing at court, his consumption of the beard dingle garnered nearly as many snickers from his courtiers as had the time he’d been found, passed out and rummy, in Queen Isabella’s panties.

What are those words that make you cringe? How many do we share in common? Post, tweet, or send me a smoke signal with your list of vile vocabulary.

And for those of more sensitive dispositions, the next post will address those lovely, melodious, delightful words that charm us every time.

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It’s Mother’s Day in 3 Days…

I hadn’t planned a Mother’s Day blog post, and yet this landed in my in-box today. Its sentiments are too lovely not to share. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing women out there who are mothers, who have mothers, or who have donated the privilege of mothering a child to another woman. Celebrate the relationships in your life!

Amanda A. Allen

…and the mother I’m thinking about all the time isn’t the one I expected.  It isn’t my mother who is fantastic.  It is an honor to be her daughter.  It isn’t my grandmother who I knew for a short time but who I love simply for the memories of my father speaking of her and then choking up with adoration years after she died.

It isn’t my friend Auburn who is my kind of fast-food purchasing, writing during the soccer games, adoring Mom.  Or my friend Kristyn whose six kids seem so wonderful and I often think about her parenting advice.  It isn’t…but it doesn’t really matter who it isn’t.

achildborntoanotherwomanI am in the process of an adoption.  The details are, of course, not for public consumption, etc.  But I am adopting through Foster Care.  Obviously that has associated meaning.  I spend much of my quiet moments thinking of how I…

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