Can a noise provoke disgust?
June 21, 2006 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Is there a sonic equivalent to goatse?

It seems to me people can feel visceral disgust through sight, smell/taste or touch, but not sound. Is there a noise that humans find universally disgusting or shocking, like G-boy? (Not just irritating, like a pneumatic drill or James Blunt.)

If so, I promise not to play it down the phone to the next telemarketer. (Much.)
posted by randomination to Grab Bag (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there's always the famous nails on a chalkboard, but the feeling is a bit different, I suppose.

My money's on Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" if the emotion your after is really disgust.
posted by JMOZ at 8:36 AM on June 21, 2006

your -> you're.

I hate when people make that mistake, and then I go and do it. Gah.
posted by JMOZ at 8:37 AM on June 21, 2006

babies crying ... not disgusting, but it's guaranteed to get your attention, even if you don't have a kid
posted by pyramid termite at 8:38 AM on June 21, 2006

Clearly, people don't universally find goatse disgusting or shocking.
posted by box at 8:39 AM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

The sound of someone vomitting has always disgusted me.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2006

The brown note?
posted by boo_radley at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2006

I'd wager some body-function-related noises would do it; vomiting, defecating, etc. I think for a lot of people, a simple fleshy/wet noise might do it.
posted by beerbajay at 8:43 AM on June 21, 2006

The sound of someone vomiting always disgusts me, and actually makes me want to vomit myself. There's something about the noise created by the body combined with the splashing of the fluids into the toilet that makes me cringe. in fact, I am not able to throw semi-fluid food (i.e. Soup) down the toilet because it reminds me too much of a puking sound.

(How's that for a first ever MeFi post?)
posted by mcroy at 8:47 AM on June 21, 2006

Somewhat related askme. (Similarly, one might wonder what is the goatse equivalent in architecture or tap dancing.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:49 AM on June 21, 2006

ha! i read that wikipedia article about the brown note and i was thinking about ween the whole time, and then pow! i love wikipedia. and i won't need coffee this morning :)

anyway the nails on a chalkboard sound is enough to mess me up good.
posted by joeblough at 8:52 AM on June 21, 2006

Let the Eagle Soar?
posted by Alison at 8:54 AM on June 21, 2006

For me, the simple sound of George W. Bush's voice causes a visceral feeling of disgust, but others probably find it pleasurable and reassuring. But then I see that some folks also eat their own snot and don't mind the smell of their own farts.... both of which one would, presumably most would find disgusting in others.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:55 AM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, not to be politically provocative, but I have a really visceral discomfort listening to bad public speaking, and you really can't get any worse than W.

Seems to me that there are reports of low frequency sound transmissions that are supposed to induce nausea in people, which isn't really the same. I'd also put in a vote for the sound made when people in the ICU have there oral secretions suctioned out - it's pretty fucking gross.
posted by docpops at 9:02 AM on June 21, 2006

The sound of a hairball can wake many cat owners from even the soundest sleep.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:04 AM on June 21, 2006

Matmos' "A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure." Sounds include scalpels cutting through flesh, fat being sucked up into a liposuction tube, eye surgery lasers, and so on. It's the what I think are the liposuction noises that are hardest to listen to.

[Alternatively, for many people: most things by Merzbow.]
posted by ubersturm at 9:05 AM on June 21, 2006

Oddly, the sound of people eating noisily disgusts (as well as infuriates) me. There's no good reason for it, it's just a pathological thing on my part.
posted by BorgLove at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2006

Directional sound and infrasonics can be combined into a targeted sonic weapon, as Woody Norris did some years ago (here's a mirror of a NY Times article about it).
posted by Tuwa at 9:19 AM on June 21, 2006

d'oh. I see that mirror got only part of the article. Well, your local library will probably have access to the full text if you're interested.
posted by Tuwa at 9:20 AM on June 21, 2006

I was going to say what BorgLove said. I feel disgusted if I can hear someone eating, particularly with their mouth open or in an uncontrolled way. And don't get me started on open-mouthed chewing of gum, or gum-snapping. I also feel that there is no good reason for me to feel like this, and that it is a pathological part of me that I could well do without.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2006

That high-pitched ringtone posted the other day that supposedly only teenagers can hear (I can hear it and it was painful).
posted by matildaben at 9:25 AM on June 21, 2006

There's a good discussion of the history, psychology, and physiology of the emotion of disgust in Miller's The Anatomy of Disgust. If you want to really dig deep into how and what works to digust people across different senses then this is the book for you!
posted by meehawl at 9:29 AM on June 21, 2006

Audio of any kind of child abuse. Recordings of a dog being abused would probably also have the same effect.
posted by teleskiving at 9:31 AM on June 21, 2006

I'm going to have to check out Merzbow's discography (NSFW) now. It sounds, erm, fascinating. And thanks for the book recommendation; I've always been interested in the science of disgust.

As for me, the sequence in Farenheit 911 when Moore played the audio of the 11 September attacks over a black screen made me feel very sick indeed. But I suppose because I associate it so much with the pictures and the whole day, not because of the noise itself.
posted by randomination at 9:40 AM on June 21, 2006

Hearing somebody chew makes me angry, and the nails on chalkboards makes me wince. The one sound I can think of that actually disgusts me (in the "Well, I can't eat now") sense is hearing someone blow their nose, when there's clearly a lot of gunk involved.
posted by kimota at 9:47 AM on June 21, 2006

All of this is pretty tame. The whole concept is relative. QED
posted by cellphone at 10:04 AM on June 21, 2006

Per StickyCarpet's comment, I present to you the goatse of architecture:

posted by ImJustRick at 10:31 AM on June 21, 2006

cellphone: I'm not sure that it's purely relative. The smell of faeces, a person with a skin disease, the sound of retching, they're all things you'd do well to avoid from a survival point of view. I think a fair case can be made for disgust being something inbuilt, rather than learnt.

Of course, there are always going to be corner cases (corophilia, etc).
posted by Leon at 10:36 AM on June 21, 2006

Choruses of children singing.
posted by penchant at 10:39 AM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can't BELIEVE you even have to ASK.

It is the call of the Tasmanian Devil.
posted by unSane at 10:42 AM on June 21, 2006

The sound of a dog licking itself. Makes me nuts.
posted by Biblio at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2006

The Tasmanian Devil's call is more funny than disgusting.

Chewing / Noisy Eating is one of the few sounds I find intolerable. I don't know why, either, since I don't find anything particularly disgusting about eating.
posted by tastybrains at 10:53 AM on June 21, 2006

I must admit to having a visceral dislike of so-called "Valley Girl" English which apparently every female (and many males) below the age of 30 are obliged to talk in even if they come from Bensonhurst. A person can have three Ph.D.s and speak 18 languages but if I hear "that voice" then I assume dullness, vapidity, and immaturity. I have not patronized the services of perfectly compentent people because listening to "that accent" would drive me to violence. Not so mature myself, especially since I am a lifelong New Yorker and have a New York accent, but I can't help myself. Oddly I *love* when someone speaks with a genuine regional accent. Adds a spice to his or her personality.
posted by xetere at 11:01 AM on June 21, 2006

That sound that someone's throat makes when it's full of phlegm and they really need to clear their throat, but they don't, they just keep talking. If someone does this in person, I cannot control the look of disgust that crosses my face - I've tried, because it's kind of uncomfortable when that person looks at you quizzically and says, "What's wrong?"
posted by peep at 11:11 AM on June 21, 2006

I like pyramid termite's answer; I once heard a brief suite of recordings of babies with birth defects crying. It was so disturbing I had trouble catching my breath.
posted by jamjam at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2006

If you're looking for something a tad more long lasting, I suggest 'Diary Of An Unborn Child' by Li'l Markie.

It starts off as the diary of a child, told by a man using a voice similar to what Howie Mandel uses for Bobby Generic. After a couple of minutes of talking about how wonderful it is to grow toes, and what color his hair will be, comes the show stopper. Just after Christmas, Markie states that his Mommy has had an abortion. Then comes the more horrifying part... The singer actually begins to sing, in falsetto, the lyrics "Why did you kill me, Mommy?"

April Winchell has it in her multimedia section under 'Terrifying Christian Recordings' at
posted by aristan at 12:21 PM on June 21, 2006

I have a very visceral response to innanely stupid conversation in a restuarant or other public places.
Similar to Lewis Black:

When from behind me, a woman of 25 uttered the dumbest thing I'd ever heard in my life ... She said, 'If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.' I'll repeat that. I'll repeat that because that's the kind of sentence that when you hear it, your brain comes to a screeching halt. And the left hand side of the brain looks at the right hand side and goes, 'It's dark in here, and we may die.' She said, 'If it weren't for my horse...' as in, giddy up, giddy up, let's go - 'I wouldn't have spent that year in college,' a degree-granting institution. Don't! Don't think about that sentence for more than three minutes, or blood'll shoot out your nose. The American medical profession doesn't know why we get an aneurysm. It's when a blood vessel bursts in our head for no apparent reason. There's a reason. You're at the mall one day, and somebody over there says the dumbest thing you've ever heard and it goes in your ear. So you turn around to see if your friends heard it, cause if your friends heard it, and you can talk about what the jackass said, then it'll be gone. But your friends are over here, pretending they're gonna buy a cellular phone, and they're not gonna buy a cellular phone, because they don't even understand how the rate structure works. So you turn back, to find the person who said it, because if you can ask 'em a question like, 'WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKIN' ABOUT?!' then it'll go away. But they're gone. And now those words are in your head. And those words don't go away. Cause the way I see it, 7% of our brains functions all the time, because 99% of everything that happens is the same old stuff. We get it. All right. Move on. Get it. Right. But every so often, somethin' like that happens: 'If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college.' So your brain goes, 'LET'S FIGURE IT OUT! Son of a bitch! I wonder what that's about!' I wonder, was she riding the horse to school? No, she wouldn't be riding the horse to school. Maybe it was a polo pony; she had a polo pony scholarship. Maybe she sold the horse and that's how she - she was betting on the horse! WHAT THE FUCK?!! And then you realize that anybody who went to college would never say anything that stupid in public. And as soon as you have that thought, your eyes close and the next morning they find you dead in your bathroom
posted by Corpus Callosum at 12:27 PM on June 21, 2006

I would think that the sound of someone screaming in agony would be pretty hard to listen to. (As opposed to screaming in fear, which is not the same sound.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:54 PM on June 21, 2006

In the same vein as fingernails on a chalkboard, I'm really irked by metal utensils scraping the bottom of pots.

Yet I really like Merzbow. His 1930 album blows my mind.
posted by killjoy at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2006

Annoying sounds seem to be more headachey and than nauseous-y. Maybe really in depth puking sounds would do it, but it seems like the more common response to most of the things here is more like a headache than the nausea produced by really bad sights or (especially) smells.

I mean, if I hear nails on a chalkboard, or a really annoying song, or something stupid, or a band playing off-key, it's not exactly disgust that I feel. The aneurysm thing comes much closer, because it all seems to be contained in my head.
posted by dagnyscott at 3:35 PM on June 21, 2006

Music-wise (aside from Merzbow) try anything by Whitehouse though that may not be as immediate as goatse.

In addition to the above mentioned damaged mammal sounds, I would add the sound of a cat having lost a fight (real nasty).

The radio series Blue Jam by Chris Morris features a great many unsettling audio sketches, many of which provoke visceral responses. The only one I remember now is a sketch of a doctor sewing up a patient's thoat, which is rather troubling.

I would guess there are many, many more sounds that would fit the bill out there.
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:42 PM on June 21, 2006

I've heard that the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard makes us shiver because it's sonically similar (wavelength or something) to certain monkey distress/warning cries. In other words it taps into some deeper wiring that was once there to make us get ready to fight or flee.

Maybe baby wails are the same? I don't know many people that can ignore an infant in full-on screaming mode; responding to that seems hardwired.

I think the sound of flesh tearing has a pretty visceral impact. It's unmistakable and usually signals something is not right at all for at least someone/thing. (As children a friend of mine and I would gross each other out by saying "wet pop" - it just sounds so icky.)
posted by gottabefunky at 3:56 PM on June 21, 2006

the sound of people eating noisily disgusts (as well as infuriates) me

Same. Disgusts and infuriates.

I also really, really hate the sound of someone scraping a spoon on the bottom of a cup or bowl to lick up the last teensy tiny bits. Scrape-scrape-scrapescrape-scrape, sluuuuurp!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:16 PM on June 21, 2006

It seems like a lot of these would need some kind of context to be really disgusting. The liposuction, not that I've heard it, would probably just sound like slurping sounds when devoid of context. Annoying, but not terribly disgusting.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:00 PM on June 21, 2006

Apparently, the debilitating sound used in hypersonic weapons is a sample of a baby crying, played backwards. According to all accounts, this is a sound that can knock people over.

posted by Afroblanco at 12:04 AM on June 22, 2006

The bakery section in my local supermarket broadcasts a lowpictched throbbing sound that makes me feel physically ill and irritable. One minute round the bread rolls shelves is enough to make me want to throw up whilst yelling at someone. I think there's a fan offbalance or something. It's a sound I can not so much hear as feel.
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:16 AM on June 22, 2006

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