(cheriejoyful/Flickr)

The 10 funniest words in the English language, according to this study

Two University of Alberta researchers say they’ve analyzed what makes some words intrinsically funny.

Ever wondered why some words can make you snort milk through your nose or why little kids love to run around yelling certain others?

A pair of University of Alberta researchers say they’ve analyzed what it is that make some words intrinsically funny.

“Nobody has really done a good job at predicting humour in advance,” said University of Alberta psychologist Chris Westbury. “One of the reasons is they haven’t been willing to go low enough.”

Westbury is co-author of a recently published paper entitled “Wriggly, Squiffy, Lummox, and Boobs: What Makes Some Words Funny” in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. His research may be the first to break down what makes us break down.

Like all great science, it builds on previous research.

Under the previous federal government, Westbury said a drought in science funding left him free to do something wacky.

“I thought people would think I was wasting their money if I did this on their dime.”

He’d noticed that people often laugh at silly-sounding non-words, so he went looking for patterns. Garble like “snunkoople,” for example, was more apt to draw a smile than something like “x-attack.”

On the strength of that research, he was sent a British paper to review that used statistical analysis to rank the funniness of nearly 5,000 words. Cutting-edge stuff, thought Westbury, but why were those words funny?

Westerbury’s 27-page paper presents a 2,500-year literature review of philosophical attempts to get the joke. It may be the only academic paper that cites both Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, author of the book “Fear and Trembling,” and Broadway playwright Neil Simon, who gave us “The Odd Couple.”

But nobody has really succeeded, Westbury holds. “None of those theories are really theories. They’re explanations.”

He wanted to be able to predict what people would find funny. To do that, he and colleague Geoff Hollis decided to focus on the most basic kind of humour.

“Single words? It’s not really that funny, but even though it’s not that funny, it’s really complex.”

What makes a word funny, he found, is a combination of two factors — sound and meaning.

Using sophisticated statistical analysis of three billion words worth of prose on Google, they found words likely to get a laugh tend to be associated with sex, bodily functions, good times, animals and insults.

But that’s not enough. They have to sound funny, too.

The 10 funniest words in English from a sample of nearly 45,000?

Upchuck, bubby, boff, wriggly, yaps, giggle, cooch, guffaw, puffball and jiggly.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prince Rupert doctor amends social media statement on COVID-19

College of Physicians said information must not be disclosed

Volunteer closures devastating to bottom line

P.R. fishing charters banding together to deter out of province tourists amidst COVID-19

UPDATE: First presumptive case of COVID-19 in Prince Rupert

Doctor says it was a visitor, Northern Health won’t confirm

Digital Daffodils

April is Canadian Cancer Society’s cancer awareness month

North District RCMP see massive spike in domestic calls

Connection to COVID-19 pandemic likely for reduced call volume, increased severity

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. asking companies to contribute through online COVID-19 supply hub

New platform to co-ordinate, source, expedite supplies and equipment to support front-line workers

Controls can keep Canadian COVID-19 deaths under 22,000, health agency says

With poor containment measures, the death toll could be much, much higher, the agency says

People needing addictions services feel ‘abandoned’ during pandemic, B.C.’s ex-top doctor says

Widespread job losses and more homelessness due to physical distancing at shelters have added hurdles

Canada lost 1,011,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate up to 7.8%: StatCan

Unemployment rate hits levels not seen since 2010

COVID-19 world update: 6.6 million U.S. jobless claims; alcohol sales banned in Bangkok

Comprehensive digest of coronavirus news items from around the world

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Most Read