Why some words are just funny

Why do so many of us laugh at a word like ‘poop’ but not at, say, ‘treadmill’? Is it all down to their meaning? Or are we also responding to the sound of these words? Psycholinguist Chris Westbury set out to discover the answer. Assisted by an inventive computer, Westbury and colleagues dreamed up a bunch of non-words (like “snunkoople”), and tested their funniness on the public. We discuss the results, as well as our favorite funny words—and we get some authentically amusing help from comedians Joanna Hausmann and Filip Jeremic.

Music in this episode by The Fly Guy Five, Little Island Leap, Arthur Benson, Josef Falkenskold, V.V. Campos, Birdies, Chasing Madison and Mike Franklyn. Photo by Nola Cox. Read a transcript here. And watch the strangest soccer match of all time (think Schopenhauer) here.

Sign up for Subtitle’s newsletter here.

Join the discussion

1 comment
  • Are you sure “snunkoople” is not a German word? No, seriously. Funny – and sounds like fun research. Good luck.

More from this show

Episode 39