(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

Federal Green leadership hopeful brings eco-socialist campaign to Nanaimo

Dimitri Lascaris one of nine candidates running for party leader

Garbage truck knocks down lamp post onto pickup in north Nanaimo

Emergency crews respond to Dickinson Crossing plaza mall Friday afternoon

Woman reunited with wedding ring she lost in Nanaimo

Qualicum Beach woman ‘over the moon’ after getting ring back, say RCMP

Artists adding finishing touches to new downtown Nanaimo murals

Three outdoor art works commissioned by Hub City Walls festival to be completed by Saturday

Artists adding finishing touches to new downtown Nanaimo murals

Three outdoor art works commissioned by Hub City Walls festival to be completed by Saturday

Beefs & Bouquets, Aug. 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Most Read