How to Choose Funnier Words and Names

kermit-scooter1

Jim Henson could have named his amphibian puppet character Peter, but instead he chose Kermit. Peter the Frog doesn’t sound as funny as Kermit the Frog. Kermit on a scooter sounds and looks funny too. Why? The simple explanation is that words with a ‘k’ sound are inherently funny. So using words and names that start with or contain the ‘k’ sound can add some humor to your writing. Choosing an unusual name, or a name that is out of context, might also be another funny factor. I’ve never met a Kermit or known a Canadian named Klaus.

Consider the plosive effect

In addition to the ‘k’ sound, the sounds made by the consonants p, b, d, g, and t are the funniest sounds in the English language. These consonants are called plosives because they start explosively. A plosive (for anyone who cares) is a phonetic term, also known as a stop, for a consonant that blocks the vocal tract. The sound made by the blockage varies depending on which part of the mouth you use. We use the tongue blade for ‘t’ and ‘d’, the tongue body for ‘k’ and ‘g’, lips for ‘p’ and the glottis for ‘b’ sounds (fascinating). So when you choose a word, try to use one that contains one or more of the plosives: p, b, d, g, t, and k. Say the word and listen for its humorous effect.

Choose one of the 100 funniest words

Take a look at the words in the columns below, which came from Dr. Robert Beard’s list of 100 Funniest Words in English. Which column of words is funnier?

 Column A  Column B
 uproar  brouhaha
 fool  nincompoop
 hurry  skedaddle
 loiter  lollygag
 confuse  discombobulate
 deceive  bamboozle

I hope you chose column B (otherwise, Dr. Beard’s list is kaput). Dr. Beard (aka Dr. Goodword) spent 40 years of scientific research in the workings of words. In his book The 100 Funniest Words in English, he explains “Words can have funny sounds, funny meanings, and funny combinations of both. So unexpected sounds, meanings, or pairings of the two are occurences of words that make us smile or laugh.” When you’re searching for a funnier word, refer to Dr. Beard’s list.

Make up your own list of funny words

I admit that many of Dr. Beard’s words are not in my everyday vocabulary, so instead, I’ve pulled together a list of some other funny words. You can borrow words from my Ginormous List of Funny Words, or use it to create your own list. Another great source for humorous words is the Urban Dictionary, which contains “a veritable cornucopia of streetwise lingo” that you probably won’t find in Websters.

Exercise your word choice

Before you leave this post, see if you can come up with a funny word or two for each of the following categories:

 Category  Boring  Funny
 vegetable  asparagus
 clothing  blouse
 vehicle  car
 city  Amsterdam
 furniture  sofa
 medicine  aspirin
 color  blue

Now you know what makes a word funny and where to find some, you can sprinkle these words in your writing to add some witty flavor. Choose funnier names for stories, examples, or witness protection.

Reference:

Wikipedia. Inherently Funny Word

Advertisements