That sounds funny — the science behind why certain words make us laugh

The meaning of a word and the form a word takes are key to getting a giggle

Psychologist Dr. Chris Westbury figured out what makes words like wriggly, squiffy and boobs so funny. (John Ulan, University of Alberta, Faculty of Science)

Science has determined through rigorous statistical analysis of 45,000 total words what the funniest words in the English language are, and some insights into why they make us giggle.

In fact, the word giggle, along with wrigglysquiffy and boobs are among the funniest words we know according to a new study by Chris Westbury, a psychologist at the University of Alberta. And there’s a big goofy list below of the funniest 200 words in English.  Some will make you slaphappy, others will make you upchuck, and one we can’t mention because you may get your knickers in a knot.

Slobbering, puking, blockhead

No, not you. We just wanted to get your attention so we could talk about the purpose of this study.

Westbury, who has an interest in the psychology of humour, wants to understand what it is about certain words that makes us laugh. The capacity to laugh is unique to us and higher primates, but only we have words.

The study is based on three theories of humour. One, called superiority humour, suggests we find humour from making fun of people. “You blockhead Charlie Brown” is an example.

A second theory of humour is incongruity theory, which suggests that less likely things are funnier than likely things. You are not expected to slobber, but when you do, people laugh.

The third theory is juxtaposition theory, and it suggests that people’s actions sometimes make us laugh. Who doesn’t find puking funny?

All three of these theories are reflected in a master list of 200 individual words that make us laugh the most. Don’t worry, we’re getting to them.

Of all the words in the English language, upchuck and slobbering are among the funniest. (David Singleton, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Semantic predictors of funny words

One of the conclusions of the study is that there are two ways to predict whether a word will be funny or not: its meaning and its form.

Semantic predictors depend on the meaning of a word and the emotions evoked by that word. This measures how closely a word is — either in meaning or emotion — to the particular category is represents. The study found there were six categories of words that typically make us laugh: sex, bodily functions, insults, swear words, partying and animals.

From the sex category, boob and penis are classics. Bodily functions includes burp and snot; insults are words like ninny and buffoon; swear words are bullocks and jackass (among those we care to list); funny partying related words are booze and shindig; and humour in the animal list comes from pooch and critter.

Did we mention there are more in the list of the 200 funniest words at the end of this article? Keep scrolling …

Many of comedian George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on TV have characteristics similar to those on the funniest words list. But we can’t tell you what they are. (Gary C. Caskey/Reuters)

Information predictors of funny words

Dr. Westbury’s second predictor of funny words he calls “information predictors.” These have do do with the structure of a word or its form.

Words with fewer letters that occur less frequently in English were found to be funnier than words with more common letters. Similarly, less common words are funnier than common ones.

Also a few specific letters or sounds sometimes occur more frequently in funny words. For example the letter ‘k’ appears quite often in funny words: pukefinkoink; as does the ‘oo’ sound, as in boob and poop. The letters ‘le’ at the end of a word is also often worth a giggle — or a wriggle or even a nibble.

The top 200 funny words (yes, finally!)

(Warning: some of these words could be considered mildly offensive)

slobbering
upchuck
puking
humping
fuzz
bawl
giggle
cooch
bunghole
floozy
boff
cackling
chucky
guffaw
slobber
pukes
giggling
bubby
titty
titties
poop
pooping
wank
mangy
fellate
puss
puke
burp
boobs
pubes
simp
boob
prancing
licker
poops
hussies
booby
jiggling
meany
bucko
hussy
flappy
schmuck
giggly
humph
booger
foxy
fellating
farted
blowjob
waddle
chubby
buxom
goddamn
ninny
buzz
strumpet
fanny
yaps
huffy
cluck
pudgy
barfed
weiner
nymphomaniacs
cootie
wiggling
groupies
wiggly
farting
twerp
yack
poppa
fellated
dumpy
foolery
chortle
pecker
heinie
snogging
wriggly
goofy
whoop
cackle
belcher
crapping
boobies
jiggle
yuks
whoopee
prance
frisky
lummox
gulp
squawk
squawking
weeny
clinger
squiffy
jiggly
snots
muzzy
nincompoop
drool
cooky
wiggle
nilly
blurt
mumbo
lubber
yobbo
farts
squealing
guff
bogart
minx
bozo
groupie
chomp
quip
ponces
giggles
honkey
boner
diddle
willy
f–ker
hijinks
snickering
waggling
ponce
guppy
chortles
momma
biff
conniption
kiddies
wags
twirly
widdle
tipsy
guffaws
puffball
dippy
cuddle
honky
effing
goos
cavort
squirming
dingle
frigging
porky
oink
shagging
tubby
wham
mamma
smarty
cheerios
boozy
catcall
huffs
fornicated
blurts
douches
biddies
tiddly
rotter
crumby
punkin
scamp
hubby
prats
shimmy
scarry
chick
huck
floozie
gabbing
dicks
chump
cavorting
hirsute
titter
hoot
wienie
grump
coxcomb
gabby
jock
bray
snicker
letch
braw
holler
skulk
how’d
yelp

CBC Quirks & Quarks

How to Cuss Politely

I grew up in a rural area where the vocabulary of most people was about 2-300 real words. But those same people had at least 50-100 swear words under their belt ready to be spit out in a milliseconds notice. And what was better, where I grew up was a tri-lingual community, three languages, English, French and Flemish (Belgian Dutch). So we had the chance to be worldly swearers. We could be completely fluent in cuss words from three languages! It was fantastic. If you stubbed your toe you could swear for 10 minutes straight using Anglo-Franco-Flemingo cusses.

But now that I have matured and become more laid back, I hardly cuss out loud anymore. But internally, that is a different story. When I’m thinking to myself every third word is a very bad word. Makes me feel better, a kind of catharsis. Let off some steam, but the way I swear inside my head I should be steamed off almost immediately after a few thoughts, but no, it continues all day. I’m trying to swear internally in a more respectful way, so I am starting to use the words and phrases below. I am finding I feel less guilty. Viva les linguindidos.

Ned shows the way:

ned-flanders-art

But he used Jesus’ name in vain. Some time in Purgatory Ned.

A few examples of alternative cussing:

Fudge Nuggets that woman has a nice Fish Pastel!

If that Shuzzbutt doesn’t shut his mouth, I’m going to make a mercrob out of his Shikaka!

Why doesn’t this NFL team trade that saffron Hobknocker!

Oh, snap, Son of a motherless goat!

How in the snookerdoodle am I going to get out of this Mothersmucker?

Son of a motherless goat! How the fudge berries did I fall for those cornnuts!

curse2

That is the ugliest fart knocker I have ever come across.

Yuck Fou!

Take those kittywhiskers and shove them up your Shnookerdookies!

I’m going to rotate and tilt your jaw, then unscrew your Jehoshaphat!

**Please use with moderation.