COLM O'REGAN: Opening Lines: I know some of you suffer from onomatodontlikeia because I did some research

This is the time of year when the media is full of tips on how to get through the grim weeks ahead. But we are ignoring the mental health benefits of a good wallow. The wallowing-mud in this case is ‘words that annoy’.

I have always had bugbears. (By the way, the original ‘bugbear’ was a medieval bogeyman for scaring children, so this article won’t be a complete waste of your time, if wallowing’s not your bag). But every so often, a different word provokes a reaction. And so it was that when someone said ‘beverage’ on the radio last week, I started to twitch.

It’s not exactly onomatophobia — a fear of certain words — but it’s definitely onomatocantstandia.

It does depend on who is talking. I have a friend who says ‘pacific’ rather than ‘specific’ and I just let it slide, whereas if someone I didn’t like or didn’t know said it, it would be paddling time.

Similarly, I have a mild form of misophonia. It’s mild in the sense that I haven’t killed anyone for eating open-mouthed while breathing through their nose. Yet I would sit for hours listening to my one-year-old splap-splap-mash-squerch a banana.

She is my baby, so everything she does, including the unspeakable things to fruit, is miraculous. But if you tried that kind of noise, I’d spoon out your eye like it was a kiwi fruit.

If you’re the type of person who gets on with their lives and doesn’t let this type of stuff bother you, this next bit, like all parts of your life, is two minutes you won’t get back, so maybe go and have a cup of tea. But don’t ‘slurp’ it.

If, on the other hand, you feel there’s been enough self-care and wellness so far in January, then crack open a beverage and join me in the mud. I know some of you suffer from onomatodontlikeia, because I did some research.

I say research, but, really, I just asked people on Twitter what words they hated. I crowd-sourced. ‘Crowdsourcing’ may be one of the words that trigger your onomatophobia.

In fact, ‘trigger-word’ might be one of your trigger words. But how and ever — that last one was deliberate to see whose temple starts pulsing next — I asked Twitter.

No-one likes the word ‘moist’.

Whether it’s the ‘oi’ sound of it (‘ointment’ is another word that rubs salt in wounds) or some sort of association with ick, moist seems universally hated.

Of the hundreds of responses I received, a number of categories emerged. Over this week and next — I am really dragging this out — I will outline some of those categories, so that you can avoid them, or deliberately pepper your conversation with them to irk a loved-one. The first is the moist-ointment category of perfectly innocent words that have unfortunate connotations for people.

‘Discharge’ is the perfect example of these. Even though discharge can mean the end of a hospital stay or of your decorated army career, for most people it seems to mean some sort of ‘oh, that can’t be a good sign’ liquid.

Hard on the heels of moist was ‘gusset’. I take it they didn’t mean the steel plate for connecting beams to columns. The level of gusset-disgust-discussion suggested they were talking in a trouserly sense. Perhaps because ‘gusset’, ‘moist’ and, oh dear, ‘undercarriage’ were already mentioned, later respondents moved on to other evocative words, like ‘flannel’, ‘swab’, and ‘sponge’, with a brief diversion to, of all things, ‘giblets’.

This mud is getting dirtier. Next week, in part two, we wallow in the cleaner spaces of words that drive you mad in the office.

Colm O’Regan’s first novel, Ann Devine, Ready For Her Close Up, is published on February 7.


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