(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

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Cermaq Canada continues to adapt operations amid Covid-19 pandemic while supporting employees and local communities

As governments, communities and Canadians continue to modify behaviors and activities based… Continue reading

No more ferries will sail from Departure Bay, Mill Bay, Brentwood Bay during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Ferries announces major changes to sailing schedules for 60 days starting Saturday, April 4

COVID-19: North Islanders bang pots and pans to honour essential workers

‘Hopefully we can keep it going for them because these people are showing up at work every day for us’

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Federal NDP suggests universal benefit to streamline aid payments

Those who do not need money will repay at end of tax year

Saanich mayor receives his foster bees through pollinator rental program

‘I feel like I’m an adoptive father,’ Fred Haynes says of his rented mason bee colony

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read