THE word misophonia is the latest new word in my vocabulary. It’s not a word I could find in my Oxford, and so I had to turn to Google, which offered this explanation through Wikipedia:
Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound,” is a purported disorder in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.
The word caught my eyes while I was reading The New York Times recently. It was ensconced in the headline, Snip, Snap, Slurp: Misophonia Makes Them Unbearable, set atop a photo with a lady, her face truncated from the nose up, blowing at a dainty cascade of soba hoisted by her chopsticks over a huge bowl of soba soup.
We can imagine what happens next: the slurping sounds, the zuru zuru, that onomatopoeic phrase in Japanese that echoes the noise from slurping ramen or soba, or from sucking up the last dregs of soda in a glass through a straw. But what struck me first was not so much the imagined sound of noodles slipping swiftly past wet lips, but a strange click in the mind that got me connecting the word with miso soup.
For a brief dyslexic moment, I saw the word as “noise made from slurping miso soup”—with or without noodles. I suppose that’s what happens when we hazard wild semantic guesses, such as when a student once deduced that precipitous refers to precipitation. Here was my own precipitous moment that would have taken me down a dangerously steep path into silliness and unknowing, until Wikipedia came to my rescue.
What else did Wiki have to offer? Misophonia has other names: “soft sound sensitivity syndrome” and “select sound sensitivity syndrome” (or “4S” for those of us who’d prefer to keep it less of a mouthful). Then there’s the self-explanatory “decreased sound tolerance,” and my favorite: “sound rage.”
It wasn’t until a few days ago that misophonia visited me again, in anticipation of my writing this piece—this time, not with the image of miso soup, but the word misogynist, standing side by side with it. Then, it got me thinking about Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Let’s break that word up and figure out what the root word miso refers to:
dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women: she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny.
It’s origin: mid-17th century from the Greek word misos (hatred) and gunē (woman).
I invite you to write to me at email@example.com if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.
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- If you like our “Word of the Week” posts, you might also enjoy our “How to Pronounce It” series.