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.



Most women don’t know how to feel about anything until Beyoncé and Mrs. Obama weigh in on the discussion. Certainly no one speaks my thoughts more mind-reading-ly than Sheryl Sandberg, a business genius billionaire and everyone’s best gal pal next door. For me, not a day goes by without WWSSD musings. Add luscious Jennifer Garner and Condoleezza Rice to the conversation, and we’ve reached a quorum of superior X chromosomes to decide what words are suitable to describe little Susie’s insistence that a $500 bill goes under Free Parking or she’s NOT playing. If these ladies are backing a ban on the word “bossy” to advance the betterment of our gender-bashing language, then this word must be a scourge on feminism! Most women–women like you and me–we just don’t get it. Maybe we never suffered the indignity… nay, abuse!.. of being called “bossy.” We don’t see that Susie’s classroom dictatorship is her burgeoning quest for success. Should that be squelched to honor trifling social graces? No! Since they can’t summon a single issue more useful to young girls than to criminalize an innocuous word, nor we.

But, let’s run a crazy little thought experiment here and daydream about what this group of powerful and/or booty-shaking ladies, coupled with the zeal of a Girl Scout army, might be able to accomplish toward a lesser goal. What if they were passionate about something slightly less important than printing tags with snappy, “I’m the Boss!” slogans for social media—something like hunger or expanded science programs or affordable housing or subsidized internships for at-risk youth? Obviously it’s super important that little Susie isn’t marginalized for speaking her mind… but I wonder if maybe her bossiness could be even more effectively encouraged from inside a warmer coat. Or not. Whatever. Like this picture of Beyoncé on Facebook!

Does one need to be Flawless to Be the Boss?

Does one need to be Flawless to Be the Boss?

Obviously, I’m not a celebrity who overcame tween-age adversity to become a mogul. I’ve never been tagged “bossy,” so I was able to obtain multiple degrees in a male-dominated field with all the effortlessness of an agreeable girl. Easy peasy. Meanwhile, those girls who were incessantly called “bossy” (and often stronger adjectives) had to struggle against all prejudice to land jobs where that quality keeps getting them promoted. If I had been bossier, I might still wear a beeper; and if my strong-willed sisters had played nice, they might own fewer pantsuits. Is this how it works? I have no idea. What I do know is that when we tell our kids to stop being bossy, it’s because they’re being assholes. What’s the politically correct word for Susie’s acting like an asshole? Sheryl Sandberg hasn’t told us yet.

Writing as Cranky Britt is super fun. But then, in an email exchange with one of my favorite people on the planet… this.

Remember all the “don’t say Gay when you really mean something is Retarded – I mean don’t say Retarded when you mean something is Lame – I mean don’t say Lame when you mean something is not fashionable!”?   It can be comical– but it makes a difference. (Same with the whole, ahem, “don’t call Asian people Oriental,” Mrs. LEE!) People were all: GIMME A F’ING BREAK WHO CARES? LANGUAGE POLICE!!  Truth is, it matters.

Language is powerful. It infuriates me that women—today, like in 2014– say they are not feminists. Not just girls… but grown ass women. That’s how afraid people are of being labeled a lesbian:  a.k.a. ugly, man-hating, un-marriage-worthy. But a word can define and limit someone, and that instills fear.  Language– especially labels– tells people what they are worth. Some people don’t know they get to decide that for themselves.

So, yeah… that. Some people don’t know they get to decide that for themselves.

Though I haven’t gone 180 degrees on my stance on banning words, I see how the Bossy Label, or any sort of label (blonde, old, fat, hipster, Republican) can affect those who don’t know how to own their own brand. And until all parents are making sure Susie is raising her hand in class, maybe having Beyoncé and Mrs. Obama fill in to encourage her isn’t a terrible thing. However, if we allow a Ban on Bossy instead of encouraging thoughtful language usage, I fear we’re in for an entire roster of Words That Traumatized Celebrities but Prevented Nary a Goal.