December 4, 2018 / Modified dec 4, 2018 11:22 a.m.

No Joke, Researchers Try to Decode What Makes Words Funny

Nothing says "humor" like semantic predictors from a computational language model.

Funny words Upchuck, bubby, wriggly, yaps, giggle, guffaw, puffball and jiggly rank among the funniest English words, according to a new report. (PHOTO: AZPM)

More than 45 years after comedian George Carlin first listed the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," scientists at the University of Alberta have developed their own list: the funniest words in the English language.

Upchuck, bubby, wriggly, yaps, giggle, guffaw, puffball and jiggly rank among the funniest English words, according to a paper in the "Journal of Experimental Psychology: General."

Although the authors acknowledge that humor is subjective, they found that funny words fell into two groups: funny by form — such as words with an "oo" sound — and funny by association — terms dealing with sex, bodily functions, insults, swear words, partying and animals.

The predictive program used participant rankings of nearly 5,000 English words, because nothing says "humor" like semantic predictors from a computational language model.

Arizona Science Desk
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