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

The past in color 1843-1947

c. 1930

An overhead view of people on 36th St. between 8th and 9th Aves., New York. Manhattan’s Garment District has been the center of the American fashion industry since at least the turn of the twentieth century – in 1900, New York City’s garment trade was its largest industry by a factor of three. The entire fashion ecosystem, from fabric suppliers to designer showrooms, exists within an area just under a square mile. Native New Yorker Margaret Bourke-White was in her mid-twenties when she took this picture. She would later become Life magazine’s first female photojournalist and, during WWII, the first female war correspondent. The two cars shown are a 1930 Ford Model A 4-Door Sedan, left, and a Ford Model A Sports Coupe, right.

1949

Stanley Kubrick is a hugely significant figure in the history of cinema, directing 13 major feature films including Spartacus, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and the ground-breaking 2001: A Space Odyssey. But prior to his film career, the young Kubrick was an apprentice photographer at Look magazine. First using a camera for his school’s publication, he was offered an apprenticeship at Look after he submitted a photograph. This picture of people arriving at the Chicago Theatre, North State Street, Chicago, is drawn from a set of pictures the 21-year-old Kubrick took for the Look series “Chicago – City of Extremes”. The theatre production in question, starring Jack Carson, Marion Hutton, and Robert Alda, was John Loves Mary, a farce.

1863

Confederate prisoners at Seminary Ridge during the battle of Gettysburg. Until 1863, both sides in the American Civil War of 1861-1865 used a parole system for prisoners. A captured soldier vowed not to fight until he had been exchanged for a soldier fighting for the opposition. But in 1863, when this picture was taken, the parole system proved untenable, because Confederate authorities would not recognize a black prisoner as equal to a white prisoner. The direct result was that the number of troops being held in prisons increased massively, on both sides. Just over 400,000 soldiers were taken captured and placed in prison camps during the American Civil War. One in ten of all deaths during the war occurred in a prison camp – a total of more than 55,000 men lost their lives incarcerated.

c. 1864

This Union soldier is believed to be Sergeant Samuel Smith, together with his wife Molle, and daughters Mary and Maggie. Smith served as a soldier in the 119th US Colored Infantry, enlisting at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. Formed during the American Civil War, after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation came into effect on January 1st 1863, the 175 regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) were largely but not exclusively formed of African-American soldiers. In total, around 180,000 free African Americans together with Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Island Americans were enrolled in the USCT – around one tenth of the Union force. Almost 2,700 were killed in combat – but that is a figure dwarfed by a total of 68,000 killed chiefly by disease – the largest cause of death in the War. The regiments were led by white officers.

1918

Oklahoma’s Fort Sill – the burial place of the Native American, Geronimo – housed static kite balloons, inflated with hydrogen such as this one. The balloons were deployed for the observation of artillery attacks, and were secured with guiding cables by groups of ground staff. Six troops were killed in the accident captured here on camera, at Henry Post Field at the Fort. The hydrogen in a balloon was ignited by a what is believed to have been a static electricity charge, created as the folds of the balloon fabric were rubbed together. Thirty more troops were injured.

1905

The “Empire State Express” (New York Central Railroad) passes through Washington Street, Syracuse, New York. The Empire State Express was the flagship train of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. It also had world renown as the first passenger train with a speed scheduled above 50 mph, as well as undertaking the longest scheduled nonstop run, between New York City and Albany, for 143 miles. Trains have run on the roads of Syracuse, New York since 1859, earning the city the sobriquet “the city with the trains in the streets.” As well as the obvious safety concerns, the situation also brought noise, dirt and pollution to Syracuse citizens. At peak points, around sixty trains ran along Washington Street – though that era finally came to an end in 1936 with the arrival of an elevated railroad and a new station on Erie Boulevard East. The final train to run on Syracuse streets was the Empire State Express – eastbound.

1918

Celebrations on Wall Street, New York following the surrender of Germany. This picture is almost what it seems – but not quite. We know the exact moment this picture was taken, 1:52 PM on Thursday November 7th, 1918 – four days before the end of World War One. The premature report of the end of the Great War originated in a casual lunchtime conversation between Admiral Henry Wilson, commander of the American Naval forces in French waters, and Roy Howard, President of United Press. Wilson passed on a report of a telephone call he had received from a friend employed in the American Embassy declaring an armistice had been signed. Howard, believing he had just been handed the greatest news story of the his career years, circumnavigated the various systems of checks and censorship in place, going so far as to forge the signature of his foreign editor. He transmitted the story to New York unscrutinized, giving the time of cessation of hostilities as 2pm – eight minutes after this picture was taken. Traders on Wall Street were the first to be aware of the news, and trading ended at 1pm. As the news spread, the entire city was caught up in the celebrations. The next day, the New York Times described the United Press transmission as “the most flagrant and culpable act of public deception.” The Armistice treaty signed at the end of World War One by the Allies and Germany at Compiègne, France, went into effect on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour, 1918. Yet close to 3,000 men lost their lives on the final day of the War, as, despite the announcement of the Armistice, fighting did not actually cease until that specific moment.

c. 1904

A ride at Coney Island’s Luna Park. When Frederic Thompson and Elmer Dundy built their A Trip To The Moon ride for an exposition in Buffalo, New York State in 1901, they had a hit on their hands. The centerpiece of the ride was an airship powered by wings which flapped, named Luna. Moving the ride to Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park for 1902, Thomson and Dundy then leased more land and created Luna Park, using 1,000 spires, a quarter of a million lights, and $700,000. On its opening night, 60,000 people paid ten cents each to enter Luna Park – rides cost extra. But in 1908, Luna Park was eclipsed by Dreamland, with a million lights. Dundy died in 1907, and Thompson went bankrupt. Luna Park continued to exist, but successive owners struggled to realize any potential it possessed. In 1944, it was wiped out by fire.

1900

Mulberry Street was at the very centre of Manhattan’s Little Italy, an ethnic neighborhood that followed from the mass immigration to New York of Italians after the 1880s. By the turn of the twentieth century, nine out of ten people in the Fourteenth Ward of Manhattan had an Italian background. Mulberry Street itself took its name from the Mulberry trees that grew around Mulberry Bend – the point in the street where it curved around what was then the Collect Pond. This scene, shot in 1900, shows something of the breadth of activity of Little Italy – vegetable stalls; barefooted children; shoe, boot and clothing merchants; a wagon of barrels and sacks; furniture removal men; and blankets, quilts and rugs left out to air – or to sell.

1910

“11 a.m. Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch, Jefferson near Franklin. They were all smoking. St. Louis, Missouri.” As a photographer working for social reform, Lewis Hine found a number of advantages in photographing “newsies” – boys who sold newspapers on street. Unlike the work he did photographing child workers in mines, factories and mills, Hine could photograph the boys without either seeking permission from employers, or, more typically, circumnavigating them. The photographs could be achieved with more time, and with more focus and attention on the subjects he shot. To achieve this sense of direct connection, Hine would bring his camera down to the eye level of his subjects. Not only taking photographs of child workers, Hine also talked to them and sought to document and record their experience. n aggregate, he created a body of work that displayed an unacceptable standard of living for many thousands of children and which ultimately achieved a change in cultural understanding of what it means to be a child, and in the law.

1885

Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill. Taken at William Notman’s studios in Montreal, Quebec, during Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, in August of 1885, this photograph bore the title “Foes in ’76 – Friends in ’85.” Sitting Bull was 54 when he agreed to join William Cody’s Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1885. Paid a signing bonus of $125, and $50 a week, his role in what was essentially an American circus was to ride round the arena once per show, in the opening procession. Sitting Bull was the star attraction – but after four months, he had had enough, and returned to the Standing Rock Reservation. It was a far cry from 1876, when, as spiritual leader to the Lakota Sioux, Sitting Bull had inspired his tribe in the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Following the battle, Sitting Bull was driven into exile in Canada, until starvation forced him to surrender to the US Government. Transferred onto Standing Rock, Sitting Bull was was shot and killed by a Reservation police officer in 1890.

1896

The “Street of Gamblers,” Chinatown, San Francisco. Two men and one woman on board the American brig Eagle were the very first Chinese immigrants to San Francisco. From 1849, Chinese people were drawn by the laboring opportunities for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, as well as the California Gold Rush – though racial discrimination was pronounced and enshrined in law, culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892, which outlawed immigration from China for the next decade. San Franciscan studio photographer Arnold Genthe was drawn to San Francisco’s Chinatown, capturing many hundreds of photographs of its people – often without their knowledge. The pictures are true to the culture Genthe saw – although he also cropped out Western elements. Here, Genthe has captured the essence of a Chinese hutong market transposed into San Francisco, crowded with men wearing black chángshān shirts and sporting the Manchu queue hairstyles – mandatory for all Chinese men until the 1910s. Excepting Genthe’s images, very few photographs remain of San Francisco’s Chinatown prior to the earthquake and fires of 1906. Most photographic collections were lost, but Genthe’s survived, stored in a bank vault.

July 1947

Portrait of Art Hodes, Kaiser Marshall, Henry (Clay) Goodwin, Sandy Williams, and Cecil (Xavier) Scott, Times Square, New York. Although born in the Ukraine, Jazz pianist Art Hodes was brought up in Chicago, and spent most of his career in “The Windy City”. Hodes became known for the Chicago Jazz style, but in order to find success, he had had to move to New York, in 1938. Here, Hodes and his River Boat Jazz Band – Joseph “Kaiser” Marshall on drums, Henry “Clay” Goodwin on trumpet, Sandy Williams on trombone and Cecil “Xavier” Scott played clarinet and tenor sax – are playing on a horse drawn cart to promote their concert that night – with special guest Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden. Writer and (self-taught) photographer William P. Gottlieb spent the ten years from 1938 to 1948 interviewing and photographing the leading, largely New York-based, jazz musicians of the time, including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. A columnist for the Washington Post, Gottlieb started to take his own pictures when the Post wouldn’t pay a photographer.

 

 

Kids from around the World with their favourite Toys

The MarkoZen Blog

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti is always traveling the world in search of adventure, good stories, and interesting people. For his latest project entitled “Toy Stories”, Galimberti photographed children from around the world with their most prized possesion. He did not expect to uncover much we did not already know. “At their age, they are pretty all much the same,” is his conclusion after 18 months working on the project. “They just want to play.”

But it’s how they play that seemed to differ from country to country. Galimberti found that children in richer countries were more possessive with their toys. “At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them,” says the Italian photographer. “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In…

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