Moist Ointment Crunching… by Steve Safran

A one-word text launched this discussion.


I had no idea why she texted it, or what it meant, but a quick Google search made it clear. I share this strange quirk with a relative, and she found that our mutual desire to pummel you for loud snacking has a name.

Misophonia— literally “hatred of sound”– is a neurological disorder in which negative feelings (anger, flight, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds. Hearing crunching noises makes me angry. This isn’t mere annoyance; I’m not bothered. I want to hit. Eat all the chips you want, just not near me. I can eat chips. The sound of my own crunching doesn’t bother me, which is odd since, presumably, it’s loudest inside my own head. Misophonia might also mean “irrational asshole.”

We didn’t even know we had misophonia until just a few years ago, when she casually mentioned that the sound of her husband eating nuts made her want to throw them (and presumably him) across the room. Poor guy just wants to have peanuts while he watches baseball.

It’s not quite a psychiatric disorder, at least not according to the DSM-5. And that thing thinks everything is a disorder. Consulting the DSM-5 about a disorder is probably listed as a disorder. This bit of nuttery lives in its own netherworld between normal and “Seek help.” And it’s so obscure, spellcheck continues to insist we have “mesothelioma.” I’ll pass.

Are we rare birds, those of us who want to throttle peanut crunchers? I put it to the crowd, launching the query on Facebook and Twitter about sounds that make people equally as crazy. I was fascinated:

“Crinkling water bottles. I’ll threaten to throw a kid out of class for that,” wrote an otherwise normal friend.

“Other people eating bananas make a very mooshy sound. Ugh,” wrote a woman I’ve known since I was five, around whom I almost certainly ate bananas.

This column could have ended there. But the conversation became even more compelling. People started bringing up certain words that bothered them. I didn’t even know words could make people cringe. I’m not talking about dirty words, words about gross things, or words about naughty bits. I mean words like:

“Moist.” “Squirt.” “Taffeta.” “Shirk.” “Panties.”

Dave, a guy I’ve known since Kindergarten, can’t stand the word “defrocked.” And he’s not even Catholic.

But Debby wins for Most Misophonic. It turns out she’s a self-described Rain Man savant of bothersome words. Just have a gander— a moist, crotchety gander:





“Mayonnaise” (And I’m starting to wonder how she orders lunch…)



And also, “Something about ‘envelope’ makes me uncomfortable.” There might be a chapter in the DSM-5 for Debby.

Alice doesn’t like “titillate,” possibly because it starts rudely. Ditto Gina with “crotchety.” It’s probably the same problem Heidi has with “penal.”

Ken is offended by “offended,” but he has no problem offending me. Lindsay wrote: “‘Penetrate’ and ‘Penetration.’ I can’t watch football because of it.” Dan added: “My mother hated ‘buttocks’ for some reason.”

The two threads brought in 165 comments. 165! The only time you even come close to that number is when Facebook forces friends to observe your birthday.

I will carry on in life with my untreated misophonia, giving Dorito-eaters wide berth. And I’m enlightened now about all these unsuspecting trigger words. Around me, do not crunch. Around women, do not bring up “panties.” And around Debby… just don’t speak.


3 responses

    • Thanks PK! I keep having this conversation. My own aversion tooth brushing. I cannot watch anyone do that… not even on TV. And cereal milk. If I see you drink that shit, I’ll gag.

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