Cracker by Damian Christie


After a couple of weeks, and a couple of hundred emails on the topic, I think it’s time we ended the quest to find everyone’s lexical hot/nots. It’s been very interesting (and quite disturbing) finding out which words make you cringe, which words you enjoy lolling around your mouth, and how few people can actually spell onomatopoeia.

Even with a large number of entries, it was difficult to get consensus on many words, or even what it is about them you don’t like. But there were still reasonable sized clusters around certain words.

Without further ado, the number one most hated word was (and I still find this really, really strange)...


If you’re wondering ‘why?’ you’re in good company. However Matt offered a nice vehement explanation, so he gets one of the books:

'Pottle', as uttered by Alison Holst... it has to be delivered in her particular flat adenoidal monotone, with the two 't's sliding into meaninglessness sibilant chaos. Even on its own, pottle is a stupid word; a case of unnecessarily making up a limp, pasty new word where several robust ones already exist. When used by Ulluhsssuhn Hullsssst, it sets my neck-hair on end.

Matt also picked up bonus points for referring to my own bête noire, Susan Devoy, as “dreary” and “painfully plain”.

Robyn was among the Pottle Voters, adding “why use pottle when pot will do” and pointing out that a pottle is actually unit of measurement, equal to 2 quarts (or 1.9 litres). Robyn has the dubious honour of submitting the most common selection of hated words… she also offered the overall second place winner:


I actually thought this one would romp home, until the odd pottle conspiracy. “Unless you’re talking about chocolate cake”, says Lisa, moist is a big no-no. Johanna helpfully adds that it conjures up images of "sweaty crotches". I would have never guessed.


…also seemed a contender for the gold, but while many people mentioned it in passing, with comments like “the word I hate even more than panties is…” very few actually voted for it. It still came in third though. This, from Lyn:

By my reckoning there's a demographic of women out there who, some time prior to their first period, received feminine hygiene packs from Johnson & Johnson who must have been trying to drum up a new generation of business. The packs were probably sent away for by an embarrassed relative. Awkward mother/daughter talks probably followed the arrival of said packs via post in a plain brown wrapper and the unveiling of all kinds of menstruation-related equipment and ridiculous instructions. The one I remember was 'press the pad into the crotch of your usual close-fitting panties'. Yup. Stayed with me.

Um, thanks for that Lyn. You get a book too.

Honorable mentions go to:

Blog, Bosom and Flaccid (in fact many words ending in ‘id’), people who say “orientated” rather than “oriented” – the former being oddly the more correct of the two – and people who say “yoggit” instead of “yoghurt”.

And Robert’s email made me laugh:

I know it's stupid, but I absolutely hate the word 'February'. Which makes this time of year particularly irksome.

I think it's because I couldn't say my 'R's properly when I was a kid, and I would be teased mercilessly when I said words like 'Febwuawy' or 'wailway', or 'Wobert'.

Childhood trauma is a great excuse for anything...

In the Most Loved Words category, there was no clear winner. In fact there was only one word that more than one person voted for. So the winner, with a paltry two votes:


If I were to draw any conclusions from the words many of you did like, it’s that there are a lot of round vowels, m’s and n’s and popping and bobbing sounds. For example:

Oblong. Discombobulate. Gumption. Flollop (which isn’t really even a word, but okay). Lump. Conundrum.

Other submissions were worth noting:

Maggie likes playing with the word Tablet, apparently: “Tab-let. Ta-blet. Taaa-blet” (?!)

Schnauzer (it makes Jeremy giggle every time he says it).

Buttonhole (which surely must rival ‘cellar door’ as one of the most perfect phrases).

Jaguar, but only when said with American pronunciation – “Jag-warrr” (I agree, must be too much Sesame Street when I was growing up, same with their Spanish lessons... “Arg-warrr”)

But my favourite submission for best word, even though I can’t find anything on the net to back this up, so it’s probably a complete lie:

Mamahamalipimata. According to Patrick, it’s from a tribe in South America and means “two people looking at each other, both wanting the other to do something, both knowing the other wants them to do it, but neither willing to do it”

Even if you are lying Patrick, you deserve a book.

Thanks everyone for your submissions. As the kids are wont to say, word up.

UPDATE: It's spelt mamihlapinatapei, apparently. Thanks to Gloria for the link :)