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.

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