Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Science Says This Is The Funniest Word In The English Language

Say, if you will, the word “booty.” If you’re sitting in at the office or the airport, or perhaps alone in a dark room, say “booty” aloud and chances are you’ll laugh. Well randomly saying “booty” is kind of weird, so maybe you won’t laugh. But according to science, you should laugh.

A pair of researchers at the Department of Psychology of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom were curious why some words and topics lend themselves to humor while others cause us to be offended.

As the researchers wrote in the journal Behavior Research Methods where they published their study last month:

The appreciation of humor is a fundamental, albeit mysterious, part of human cognition. […] What makes one thing funnier than another? And what makes some topics inviolable in relation to humor? […] The aim of providing this data is to help enrich the resources available for understanding the cognitive, developmental, and applied aspects of humor.

The researchers culled a list of 4,997 words determined from previous research. Following a practice session, they gave participant 200 words that were randomly selected to rate on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 classifying the word was “humorless,” a 5 indicating “humorous.” As the researchers noted, this analysis was “a highly rudimentary ‘fruit fly’ version, at the level of a single word.” If a single word was funny, it could establish a topical word map investigating comedy at a lexical level.

Testing 821 participants via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, the data showcased that “booty” was the funniest word. The least funniest meanwhile, was “rape.” Check the full results:

Screenshot via Engelthaler and Hills, Behavior Research Methods (2017)

Researchers also tested a single word’s humor as stated between males and females. The study’s participants were split 58 percent female to 42 percent male. This established certain outliers in which males or females found certain words funnier than the other gender. For example, males found “brand” and “bondage” were funnier words to males while females thought “giggle” and “juju” were funnier.

The researchers also tested amongst age. As expected, some words were outliers in humor to young people compared to older participants. Here are those results:

Screenshot via Engelthaler and Hills, Behavior Research Methods (2017)

Of course these results should be taken with a grain of salt. As New York Magazine pointed out, researchers might have an Amazon Mechanical Turk problem. Scientists have stated concern over Mechanical Turk’s methodology, as you don’t know who the participants are and they could be reporting false information. In addition, those who perform Mechanical Turk tasks tend to be on the younger and liberal side, as the magazine indicated.

But, c’mon now. You already knew “booty” was a pretty funny word. Now the science kind of backs it up.


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