Tinkle, booger, flapjacks, schmuck. What makes a word funny?

To discover the answer, researchers tested 45,000 of them. The result: a humor formula based on words’ looks, sounds, and meanings.

It can be hard to guess what might make a stranger laugh. Now researchers at the University of Alberta, in Canada, have developed a formula. After reading a study in which participants rated the humorousness of some 5,000 English words, psychologists Chris Westbury and Geoff Hollis wanted to break down what makes a word intrinsically comical. They expanded the list to almost 45,000 words, then generated a complex statistical model to score the funny factors and analyze the humor of each one.

Read This Next

Do spiders dream? A new study suggests they do.
Why monkeypox cases are still rising at such an alarming rate
Thunderstorms are moving East with climate change

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet