Grammar Guy

Making the ‘moist’ of 2023


I don’t often watch TikTok videos, but, when I do, they involve giant jars of mayonnaise. In a bold bid to crown "moist" the 2023 Merriam-Webster Word of the Year, the Kraft company made a grand gesture by delivering an 8-foot-tall jar of mayonnaise to the eponymous dictionary’s headquarters. While “moist” is often considered an unpleasant word, it is actually the perfect word to capture the year 2023.

The reason? Moist is actually a very timely word. The year 2023 has been a year of extremes. We have experienced both record heat and record rainfall. We have seen both political turmoil and social unrest. In a world so often divided, moist is a word that can bring us together. It is a word that can remind us of the simple pleasures in life, like the joy of a good sandwich or the agony of clammy hands.

The word "moist" has been around for centuries, but its origins are a bit of a mystery. The word is first attested in English in the 14th century, and it is believed to be derived from the Old English word "mōst," which means "dew."

Amidst the cacophony of words that grace our daily conversations, moist stands out as an island of peculiarity. This seemingly innocuous word, with its unassuming syllables, has managed to elicit a spectrum of reactions, ranging from mild amusement to outright disgust. Its mere utterance conjures up images of damp sponges, unwelcome bodily fluids and unappetizing food textures.

Yet, despite its reputation as a linguistic pariah, "moist" possesses an undeniable charm, a mischievous glint in its linguistic eye. It's a word that dares to be different, to stand apart from the mundane, and for that, it deserves our collective admiration.

Imagine a world devoid of "moist," where we're left to fumble for euphemisms like "slightly wet" or "damp but not dripping." Our conversations would be robbed of their vibrancy — their ability to capture the nuances of wetness and humidity.

I urge the Merriam-Webster dictionary to seriously consider Kraft's campaign to make “moist” the 2023 Word of the Year. It is a word that is both timely and timeless, and it deserves to be celebrated. I know the M-W folks are avid readers of Grammar Guy, so I’m sure they will make this a top priority. 

Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at