(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

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

COVID-19 minimizes Okanagan Regional Library budget increase

Library adapts to pandemic fiscal disruptions

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Squabble over mask policy at LUSH in Kelowna mall

The woman filmed the encounter at LUSH Cosmetics, where wearing a mask in-store is company policy

Cops For Kids ride wraps in Okanagan

No pomp, no circumstance for end of milestone 20th anniversary fundraising bicycle trip

Former Kelowna cop faces fourth lawsuit alleging sexual assault

Ex-Mountie Brian Mathew Burkett is also separately facing seven charges of breach of trust

Province opens ‘middle income’ housing in Kelowna

Prices on the units are $1,300 for a one-bedroom and $1,780 for a two-bedroom, nearing area-average prices

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Reward offered for return of Okanagan puppy

An 11-week-old boxer-mastiff cross pup was allegedly taken from its Kelowna Friday, Sept. 18

Most Read