Edmonton Professors Research What Makes Certain Words Funny

Certain words, when uttered, tend to make us react in a way that ranges from exhaling through our noses to laughing uncontrollably to the point of tears. However, not many of us know exactly what it is about these words that make them so funny. At the University of Alberta in Edmonton, though, professors Chris Westbury and Geoff Hollis think that they’ve pinpointed what it is about these words.

The key, according to the professors, is certain parts of the word that include double vowels. Also, anything that ends with a ‘y’ or contains a hard ‘k’ sound tends to up the humor value. Just reading that, you can probably imagine a few words that cause laughs. Many of these funny words tend to fall into certain categories, Westbury said. This includes partying, being profane or even something more intimate. “I was amazed at how well we were able to predict judgements,” he said of the words.

Westbury and Hollis literally studies thousands of words to see what the reaction would be to them. Dozens of subjects were used, and they predicted laughter for the certain words with high accuracy. One surprising aspect that they found, though, was that men and women didn’t have very different reactions. The only real difference? “Males tend to find more profane and dirtier words more funny.” That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many.