EDMONTON – Ever wondered why some words can make you snort milk through your nose or why do small children like to run around shouting to others?
A pair of researchers from the University of Alberta said they had analyzed what made some words intrinsically funny.
"Nobody really does a good job at predicting humor in advance," said University of Alberta psychologist Chris Westbury. "One reason is that they don't want to go quite low."
Westbury is one of the authors of recently published papers entitled "Wriggly, Squiffy, Lummox, and Boobs: What Makes Funny Some Words" in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. His research may be the first to break down what has destroyed us.
Like all great science, it was built on previous research.
Under the previous federal government, Westbury said the drought in science funding made it free to do anything strange.
"I think people will think I'm wasting their money if I do this with their dime."
He noticed that people often laugh at words that sound ridiculous, so he goes looking for patterns. Garble like "snunkoople," for example, is more likely to draw a smile than something like "x-attack."
"We can do very well in predicting words that people think are funny," Westbury said.
At the strength of the research, he sent a British paper to review that used statistical analysis to determine the level of preoccupation of almost 5,000 words. Sophisticated items, Westbury thought, but why are those words funny?
Some of the best thoughts of Western civilization have asked the same question.
Plato and Aristotle, Westbury wrote, arguing that humor is an insult and that all jokes have ass. Roman statesman Cicero said laughing lay in incongruity – a joke gift, for example.
Westerbury's 27-page paper presents a review of 2,500 years of literature philosophical efforts to get a joke. This may be the only academic paper citing Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, author of "Fear and Trembling," and Broadway playwright, Neil Simon, who gave us "The Odd Couple."
But nothing really worked, Westbury held on.
"None of those theories are really theories. That's an explanation."
He wants to be able to predict what people will find funny. To do that, he and colleague Geoff Hollis decided to focus on the most basic type of humor.
"Single words? It's not really funny, but even though it's not funny, it's really complicated."
What makes a funny word, he found, is a combination of two factors – sound and meaning.
Using sophisticated statistical analysis of three billion words worth of prose on Google, they find words that tend to make laughter tend to be associated with sex, bodily functions, good time, animals and insults.
But that is not enough. They must sound funny too.
If they get an "oo" vote, it is found that 17.4 percent of the most funny words are good. Likewise "kay" or suffix "le." Double letters are also funny.
Westbury confirmed the findings by using them to predict how funny people would find certain words.
"I was amazed at how well we were able to predict assessment."
Interestingly, age and gender make almost no difference in what people find funny. Culture, however.
"I have an Iranian graduate student who doesn't really find funny words that we find funny.
"He said, & # 39; I think this is rather rude. & # 39; I said, & # 39; Sorry, that's your culture now." & # 39;
Westbury knows that his analysis says a little more about irony, satire, or more sophisticated. But he said that light that shed laughter gave meaning to what it meant to be human.
Humor may even have evolutionary value. Westbury said some scientists theorize that the endorphin buzz that comes from good laughter is a gift of thinking outside the box and being creative.
"We learn things that are important to us."
10 funniest words in English from a sample of nearly 45,000?
Upchuck, bubby, boff, wriggly, yaps, giggles, cooch, guffaw, puffball and jiggly.