WARWICK, England — If you find certain words funnier or sillier than others, you might rejoice in a new study that examines precisely what terms make people giggle, chuckle, or outright guffaw.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK showed nearly 5,000 randomly selected words to over 800 online participants, aged 18 to 78, hoping to determine which words were the funniest and wackiest.
Participants were asked to rate each word on a sliding scale that ranged from one to five.
The words that received the highest ratings— i.e., were deemed to be the funniest— were “booty,” “tit,” “booby,” “hooter,” “nitwit,” “twit,” “waddle,” “tinkle,” “bebop,” “egghead,” “ass,” and “twerp,” respectively.
Since the researchers also gathered the demographic backgrounds of participants, the results were able to be further broken down by age, gender, and education.
Men found words with a sexual association (e.g., “orgy” and “bondage”) to be the funniest.
Meanwhile, females found words such as “giggle,” “beast,” “circus,” “grand,” “juju,” “humbug,” “slicker,” “sweat,” “ennui,” “holder,” “momma,” and “sod” to be the most humorous.
Those who were younger— i.e., under 32 years of age— cracked up the most at words like “goatee,” “joint,” and “gangster.”
Older individuals found words like “squint,” “jingle,” “burlesque,” and “pong,” to be the most comical.
The mean age of all participants was 35 years.
While the research may seem like a joke in itself, it could have some more serious implications.
“The research initially came about as a result of our curiosity,” explains lead author Tomas Engelthaler in a university press release. “We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own. It turns out that indeed is the case. Humour is an everyday aspect of our lives and we hope this publicly available dataset allows future researchers to better understand its foundations.”
The study’s findings were published in the journal Behavior Research Methods.
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