Friday, February 17, 2006

If I may...

Inherently Funny Word

This was referenced in class today. Here is a small excerpt from the article. You may want to pace yourself for the whole thing, the references are quite extensive.

Determining whether a word is inherently funny, some say, is subjective and based on context. Therefore, there can never be a consensus on the answer of "What is funny?", or many other questions explaining the nature of such an abstract concept.

It is part of the mythology of actors and writers that the consonant plosives (so called because they start suddenly or "explosively"); that is: p, b, t, d, k, and g are the funniest sounds in the English language - particularly when found in short words since these "create the greatest tension" (tension being a key to comedy). Example: Underpants is funny, underwear is not. Shorter words are held to "create tension" because separating words from the normal flow of speech is very difficult cognitively, and it's more difficult to discern whether a short word has ended or not. Now look again at that list of funniest words. Duck is not only admirably short but both starts and ends in a plosive, and the other plosives are legion.

Additionally, the meaning of the word certainly plays a factor. "Duck" is funny in nearly every language, presumably because ducks are seen as a silly animal. Additionally, when taboos are associated with certain words, that can make a word humorous. The ideal funny word, then, would have the proper linguistic characteristics, a humorous meaning, and be well fitting the context of the situation and the character of the speaker.


Thomas said...

I have nothing intelligent to say. However, I thought I'd share that I've always thought "Elvis" to be a very funny sounding name. Think about it.

Becca said...


Thomas said...

Or merely "Duck"