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Scientists have determined the funniest words, and, boy, are they a laugh riot

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Various theories of comedy aim to imbue a chaotic, primordial thing with a sense of order. While certain setups and structures are reliably funny, other things have an innate sense of funniness that just radiate off of them. A couple of scientists at the University Of Warwick in the United Kingdom attempted to zero in on the funniest possible single, context-free words, having a pool of 821 people rank a set of 4,997 options based on how funny they were. And, boy, the numbers don’t lie—these are some goddamn knee-slappers.

The funniest possible words are, in descending order: booty, tit, booby, hooter, and nitwit. Please wipe your computer monitor or smartphone screen free of tears of joy before continuing, because it’s only going to get more uproarious from here. Fellas, strap on your giggle-belts, because you are disproportionately more likely to find the following terms funny: buzzard, chauffeur, orgy, czar, birthmark, and raccoon. Ladies, please don’t feel left out, because here comes a gauntlet of scientifically verified words engineered to make you giggle: juju, jester, burp, and, hey, giggle itself. Finally, they parsed the results via age, with youngsters brewing up a hearty crop of belly laughs for words like goatee, reform, joint, and germ, while the older set squeezed out a geriatric titter to the words caddies, birthright, squint, and jingle.

Again, we’ll pause while you collect yourselves.

As Gizmodo notes, one possible problem with the research methodology itself is the use of Mechanical Turk, an Amazon service that facilitates crowd-sourcing but skews young and liberal. It also lacks the context of why any of these words are funny, but then, humor itself is a vast mystery that we can only conjecture theories toward, and, anyway, sometimes it is just self-evident. Sometimes you just know something is funny, ineluctably and mysteriously. For example, again, we present the word “booty” in print.

The researchers also categorized the least funny words, which include torture, nightmare, gunshot, and, at the far extreme, rape, the official least funny word, unless it’s said in a Borat voice. Then all bets are off, baby!

[Note: Gizmodo, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]

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