'Booty' Is The Funniest Word In The English Language, Study Says

A study surveyed 821 people to find the funniest words in the English language.


Which word is funnier: porridge or oatmeal?

That was the question that inspired a new study that ranks the funniest words in the English language.

“Apparently my supervisor's kids couldn't stop laughing at 'porridge' one morning during breakfast,” Engelthaler said. “He was really confused because 'porridge' and 'oatmeal' are the same thing, but they sound different. He thought 'porridge' was funnier, I thought 'oatmeal' was funnier. So, we decided to make a study to kind of settle the argument.”

Engelthaler and his colleagues at the University of Warwick asked 821 people in the U.S. to rate 200 words, which were chosen from a list of 5,000. 

The top 12 words, in order of funniest, were:

booty, tit, booby, hooter, nitwit, twit, waddle, tinkle, bebop, egghead, ass and twerp.

At the other extreme, these were the words respondents found least humorous:

rape, torture, torment, gunshot, death, nightmare, war, trauma, rapist, distrust, deathbed, pain.

The researchers' main objective was to establish a data-set to be used in future humor studies. Still, the results showed some interesting trends, particularly in the differences between what men and women consider funny.

“Men find more dirty words funnier,” Engelthaler said. “Women kind of prefer humor that’s sound-driven and innocent. So, women find words like giggle and beast funnier, whereas men find words like orgy and bondage funnier.”

As far as the words both sexes found similarly funny? Chug, fluff, scrotum, jabber, joke, buttocks, boon, yank, tinker, prance. The results also showed that both sexes tended to consider strange words funnier. 

“We found that words that are really infrequent, so words people are unfamiliar with, are funnier on average,” Engelthaler said. “I think you’re less used to them, so you find them strange and funny.”

Engelthaler thinks this might be explained by the benign violations theory, which suggests that we find something funny when it deviates from our expectations, but only in a way that’s not too offensive. That might explain why curse words didn't top the list.

“They end up being somewhere closer to the top,” Engelthaler said. “But they're not at the very top, which is because, I guess, they offend a slight fraction of the people they're presented to.” 

Strange words could also be funny for a different reason.

“One thing we want to look into is the sounds of the words, because there have been studies that have taken a look nonsensical words,” Engelthaler said . “They found that certain sounds in the words and sound patterns make them really funny. So even though the word has no meaning at all, they still can be funny words.”

Although the words were rated by people in the U.S., the U.K. researchers didn't notice much of a difference between what people in the two countries consider funny.

“As long as something’s slightly naughty and slightly dirty, and not too negative, you would find funny in both the U.K. English and the U.S. English,” Engelthaler said.

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less

Philosopher Alan Watts: 'Why modern education is a hoax'

Explore a legendary philosopher's take on how society fails to prepare us for education and progress.

Alan Watts.
Personal Growth
  • Alan Watts was an instrumental figure in the 1960s counterculture revolution.
  • He believed that we put too much of a focus on intangible goals for our educational and professional careers.
  • Watts believed that the whole educational enterprise is a farce compared to how we should be truly living our lives.
Keep reading Show less

Mining the Moon

How can we use the resources that are already on the Moon to make human exploration of the satellite as economical as possible?

The All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE), a prototype heavy-lift utility vehicle to support future human exploration of extraterrestrial surfaces, at right, is parked beside the Habitat Demonstration Unit - Pressurized Excursion Module (HDU-PEM), at left, a concept off-Earth living and work quarters for astronauts stationed on asteroids, the moon or Mars, 15 September 2010. Photo by: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

If you were transported to the Moon this very instant, you would surely and rapidly die. That's because there's no atmosphere, the surface temperature varies from a roasting 130 degrees Celsius (266 F) to a bone-chilling minus 170 C (minus 274 F). If the lack of air or horrific heat or cold don't kill you then micrometeorite bombardment or solar radiation will. By all accounts, the Moon is not a hospitable place to be.

Keep reading Show less