misophonia, misophony

Doug Linzey has drawn my attention to the article “The Horrible Anger You Feel at Hearing Someone Chewing Is Called Misophonia.” Ah, misophonia. Not a word in the OED per se, but made of serviceable combining parts: miso, from Greek μισο miso, from μισεῖν misein ‘hate’ (verb), and phon, from Greek ϕωνος phonos, from ϕωνή phoné ‘voice’ but referring to sound in general, and the ia that makes it a noun of condition (like schizophrenia). We have misanthropy, ‘hatred of people’, and misoneism, ‘hatred of new things’, and we have telephone and microphone and all those other phone words. So hating sounds is easily called misophony, and a condition in which you hate sounds is misophonia. Sounds good, no? So to speak.

Now, I don’t feel horrible anger at hearing someone chewing. Heck, I was recently in front of someone on a bus who was chewing gum so loudly it was almost drowning out everything else (it sounded like a gruesome sci-fi sound effect), and I didn’t feel anything more than mild annoyance and greater curiosity. I do feel actual pain in response to certain kinds of loud, sharp noises, but not anger. If I feel distaste for a certain noise, it’s typically because of bad associations: it kept me awake or otherwise disturbed me several times, perhaps. I don’t like the sound a phone ringing, but just because it’s so demanding. I’m not sure any of that is misophonia.

Doug tells me he experiences something like misophonia in response to certain radio and TV personalities’ voices. Not horrible anger, perhaps, but certainly irritation. He has long disliked Jian Ghomeshi’s voice (way ahead of the curve on that one); he doesn’t like Rex Murphy’s either (I bet there’s a club for people who dislike Rex Murphy’s voice), but he tolerates it on occasion; and he used to be OK with Stuart McLean, but since McLean started trying to be a cross between Garrison Keillor and W.O. Mitchell he has to turn him off – actually, I’m right with him on that one: his theme music makes me dash for the off button before I can hear him speak. And if wanting to turn off the radio or TV as soon as you hear someone counts as misophonia, Ben Folds is on the list for me too, as are a number of singers featured in commercials, and, come to think of it, ukulele strumming too – just because of overexposure.

That’s not a medical condition, though. The misophonia – or, in Dutch, misofoniedescribed by the University of Amsterdam Academic Medical Center is a psychiatric condition, much stronger, not just a matter of taste. There is debate over whether it should be a diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. So real misophonia would be to garden-variety misophony – just hating sound like we hate bad smells or certain foods – as, say, bipolar disorder is to moodiness.

Which means if you simply miss euphonia, if you’re mainly miffed at messy phonetics, if the sound of a phone musters your ire, if you’re nettled at slurping or munching, you are experiencing what we can call misophony but do not necessarily have a clinically problematic case of misophonia.

It’s a rather euphonious word itself, isn’t it, misophonia? Mellifluous. It has two nasal consonants and two voiceless fricatives, and the rest are vowels. If you feel misophony towards stops (/b d g p t k/) or affricates or even voiced fricatives, this word is perfectly fine for you. Also if you dislike mid or low front vowels or high back vowels. But, honestly, if you have a problem with those, you really have to recuse yourself from speech communication altogether.

Maybe we can add some extra morphemes to specify the kind of misophony or misophonia. Hate the sound of chewing? Misomasticophony, perhaps (though that does sandwich a Latin root between two Greek ones). Hate the sound of a phone ringing? Misotelephonophony. And if you are driven to rage at the sound of someone slurping soup in a sushi restaurant, that would be misomisophonia. (Also, if you have that, stay away from me.)

2 responses to “misophonia, misophony

  1. I think i’ve got Misomasticophony….cant stand it i swear!

  2. If you hated the sound of people kissing under mistletoe , would that be mistletoephony? Great blog, by the way.

  3. So nothing to do with Miso soup then.

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