Words are funny, of course some more than others. For example, “bebop” and “waddle” and “egghead” are hilarious, at least according to a study recently published in the journal Behavior Research Methods and reported online by Science of Us. Perhaps not surprisingly the team of researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. found that synonyms for butts and boobs ranked highest on hilarity, even by grown adults.
Researchers asked participants in the study to consider and rank more than 5,000 words from a full spectrum of funniness, which ranged from “turd” to “drought.”
The winner, the funniest word in the English language: “booty.” Staples like “hooter,” “twit” and “tinkle” placed high as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, the least humorous / most traumatic words among those analyzed was “rape,” followed, predictably, by such gut-wrenchers as “torture,” “gunshot,” “nightmare” and “war.”
Extraordinarily expressive words make one smile or laugh, cringe or despair – in other words, actually feel or emote. This sensory impression on one part of the body by stimulation of another is called synesthesia. Consider how yellow makes us feel warm or blue makes us cold. Colors, numbers, textures, smells … and words can have a visceral effect.
Dramatic words can produce palpable responses and in some cases underwrite social causes and protests.
“Terrorism,” “genocide,” “abuse,” “suicide,” “addiction,” “abortion,” “famine” and “Alzheimer’s” are among such provocative words currently making news.
History also has a way of coining, adding gravitas and occasionally outright appropriating lexicon. Like “9-11” or “O.J.”; “(silver) tsunami” or “anything gate”; or “holocaust” or “queer” or “retard.”
There seems to be no end to the burgeoning list of words that make us feel as well as understand its meaning. To each our own, no doubt, as the English language builds to a crescendo.
Did you hear about the “turd in the punchbowl?” Which words do you consider most hilarious, offensive or sensational?