Non-English Speakers Think Love Is Gross


Oxford Dictionaries is on a massive hunt for the world’s least favorite English word. You know how it goes — be it mulch, gesticulate, or the dreaded moist, some words are the oral equivalent of a damp armpit. For a lot of foreign English speakers, the big L word is particularly gross — that’s right, Europeans really don’t like to say love (in English).

Unfortunately, the search for the grossest word was interrupted by a classic example of “this is why we can’t have nice things” when trolls started flooding the list with racial slurs and other obscenities. Oxford Dictionaries had to send out an update: “We regret to inform users that due to severe misuse we have had to remove this feature from our website.”

As of Thursday, more than 8,000 people had submitted words. In English-speaking countries like Australia, the UK, and the U.S., moist almost universally made people gag. In New Zealand, the most disliked word so far was phlegm.


The words submitted from non-English speaking countries were more of a grab-bag. In Spain, the least favorite was the seemingly innocuous hello, while one person from Gibraltar submitted the word yellow (in what can only be imagined as an affront against the sound of L versus J). In the Netherlands the top two hated English words were war and — ironically — love.

“We’re really not sure what words people will choose,” Oxford University Press’s Daniel Braddock told The Guardian before his beloved search was shut down by trolls. “But our expectation is that they will be fueled by a multitude of reasons. Cancer, for example, has affected most people in the world, so I wouldn’t be surprised if see that make an appearance.”

There has been some research to why some words are lexical eye goo. In a specific exploration of the word moist, researchers from Oberlin College and Trinity University reasoned that moist was abhorred because is simply rubbed people the wrong phonological way. But the predominant explanation for the gag-worthiness of the word came down to semantics — people couldn’t get over its onomatopoetic association to “disgusting bodily functions.”

As for not liking something because of the way it sounds, there’s not much that can help, save for Jamie Foxx: