A Bug By Any Other Name

A ladybug crawled across my windshield.  I love ladybugs.  They are small and bright, and they eat the aphids on my roses.  I don’t mind holding them, and if I see one on the sidewalk I’m careful not to squish it.  As I watched her, I began to ponder.  If a ladybug wasn’t called ladybug but was called roach, would it still be cute?

Suppose you never saw a ladybug before but you had seen plenty of roaches – everything from the small German variety to the huge palmetto bugs that torment us Southerners.  Then you saw a cute little polka-dotted bug that you had never before seen and when you asked what it was you were told “roach.”  Would you automatically squish it?

Ah, the power of words.  There are some ugly words out there and I think roach is one of them, which brings me to the following.

A Mississippi State professor did a survey to identify the ugliest words.  This was reported earlier this month on the local fox news station morning show.  Interestingly, as I searched for more info, I discovered that this professor has been doing this survey with his students for years.  My conclusion, it must have been a slow news day, but it did get me thinking.

The Mississippi State results are:

  1. Moist
  2. Phlegm
  3. Hate
  4. Ooze
  5. Vomit

I conducted my own survey from my facebook friends to discover what their choices for ugly words are.  My only restriction was to keep it “G” rated.  Out of all the words submitted, three were repeated often – hate, ugly and shut-up.

To report my findings, instead of giving you an ugly list of ugly words, I wrote an ugly short story.

The corpulent colonel looked ugly in his taupe uniform.  I hated watching him as he picked his scab and sucked mucous from the crusty pimple on his putrid foot.   The sight of the moist, curd-like substance oozing from it made me want to vomit.  It was as ugly as sin.  Sadly, this happened as I was about to enjoy a succulent steak dinner.  I asked him to stop but he told me I was retarded and I should just shut up.

Some of the above words merely sound ugly.  Others are hurtful and offensive.  Do we take seriously the power of words?  Wouldn’t you rather read a sentence like this?  The baby laughed as a beautiful butterfly landed on her nose.

Yes, words have power to build up or tear down.  Let’s use them well.  And I promise, I’ll never tell this ugly story again.  Meanwhile enjoy this clip from Seinfeld where George waxes poetic about the word manure.

Leave a comment


  1. Words do have a lot of power, there’s no question about that.

  2. I hate the word Phlegm! I hate when people cough it up, or blow their nose. Its a part of life when you are sick, but it grosses me out. I realize I used the word “hate” which is another word I don’t like because so often it is associated with hate crimes, bullying and things of that nature.

  3. My word was used first! My happiness is so large it’s corpulent!

    I took it be the ugliest sounding word apart from meaning. I have a fondness for anamanapoeia, so words like “oozing” and “crusty” are favorites, but a crusty pimple is gross. I’m fond of “curd” and “moist” but “vomit” is a pretty bad (even though “comet” is really cool). Ugly, sin, hate and shut up are rude words, but not ugly, though their meanings are truly ugly (well, “ugly” is in the eye of the beholder). “Mucous” is anamanpoetic, but like “vomit” and “phlegm” goes over the line (interesting that they’re all emesis,

    Colonel, taupe, scab, succulent and foot leave me scratching my head. In fact, “succulent” and “sucked” with their sibilant and glottal stop are… well, kind of cool actually.

    “Retarded” will forever be an ugly word to me for personal reasons. I don’t even like retarding dough.

    This post oozed inspiration!

    • Hooray for corpulent happiness. By the way, I had to look your word up, so this has been an educational post for me! Truth be told I also had to look up sibilant.

      I too am fond of anamanapoeia (except for typing the word), but crusty throws a negative picture in my head that makes it ugly for me.

      Someone submitted the word glottis as an ugly word, but I decided not to work it into my post. As for “retarded,” this is an example of a word that has been used in such a cruel and thoughtless way that it is scarred. Even in music when I see that word the ugly taunt comes to mind. Very sad. “Suck” is like that, too. I hate the slang expression so much (personal rant here) that I find myself hesitating to use the word even when my vacuum cleaner is not working properly.

      Thanks for your comments.


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