Funny Words

 By Shamus Dec 6, 2009 138 comments

Over at Chainmail Bikini we’ve been having a running conversation about “funny words”. Words which are kind of funny in and of themselves.

The examples given in the comic include the word “pants” and “weasel”. The innate humor of the word pants is demonstrated here.

Now, almost any word can be funny if it’s just incongruous enough.

1) Sword
2) Battleaxe
3) Spear
4) Lemon

See?

But some words go above and beyond this. They feel funny or odd or silly, even before they’re integrated with a proper joke. Some of my favorites:

1) The aforementioned “Pants” and “Weasel”.
2) Too many foods to mention. I suppose some of the funniest ones would be “pudding” and “bacon”.
3) Animal sounds are always silly, but I think “Moo” is the king of them.
4) Swear words are a double-edged sword. They will make the joke funnier for some, and kill the joke for others. We all have a level of profanity we’re familiar and comfortable with. If you exceed that by just a bit, it can intensify the joke. But if you go too far past that point, it just seems like you’re trying to hard, or overcompensating. It’s like over-salting food.
5) Lots of body parts are funny: Butt, nose, gizzard, spleen, elbow. Shoulder? Not so much.

Exercise: What word just really strikes you as funny? (Other than the ones I’ve already listed.) Try to come up with one and enter it into the comments below without reading the others. I’m curious what we’ll get, and what patterns will emerge. If any.

A Hundred!2018There are 138 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


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  1. Maddy says:

    I think it has to do with etymology. A lot of the Anglo-Saxon-derived words strike me as funny (short, informal, often more phonetically spelled), while the Latin-based ones seem more formal and less funny. Maybe that’s just a personal quirk, though?

  2. Maddy says:

    Oh, and I think the word “frog” is hilarious. Frog. It’s just ridiculous that this is a real word.

  3. Mark says:

    “Dagger.” Is that someone who dags? What is dagging, anyway? If you take any word and repeat it enough times, it loses its meaning and just starts to sound weird. “Dagger” was the first word I did this with, so it still has that effect.

    Also, words that are singular but sound plural, like “physics.” You can’t really have a physic. I recall a section in the Expanded Psionic Handbook titled “What is Psionics?” and we made fun of it quite a bit. “Yes, what is psionics? And is our children learning them?”

  4. CaroCogitatus says:

    Resplendent.

    And, channeling George Carlin,

    Yogurt, Squash, and Wheat Germ.

  5. mcgurker says:

    “so then the skipper runs into gilligan while chasing after a weasel wielding a chainsaw…”

    also, blumpkin. Sorry, I’m immature. :D

  6. Superkp says:

    Without looking at any of the others: specifically from Calvin and Hobbes: “Smock! Smock smock smock…”

  7. Davie says:

    As for body parts: Pancreas. I noticed this while playing Dwarf Fortress:
    Troll punches you in the pancreas!
    It is Broken!
    You have been struck down.

    Midget is another one. If I can think of more in the next 15 minutes I’ll add them.

    Oh, wait, how about narwhal? That always cracked me up for some reason.

  8. KathleenB says:

    Uvula! I love that word, because as Dave Barry said, it sounds dirty but isn’t. And it’s fun to say!

  9. KathleenB says:

    Mark: Dagging is cutting the hem of a garment into shapes. It’s a time consuming pain in the arse, but comes off beautifully. Many lovely examples here: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=dagged+hem&gbv=2&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

  10. Jericho says:

    Masticate.

    Nut Snack.

    Mostly because they sound like dirt words.

  11. froogger says:

    “Puddle” always tickles my fancy. Now I’ll have a look at what the others wrote…

  12. Will says:

    Words by themselves aren’t that funny. We’re getting into unfunny territory. But a combination of words that you have never heard together, that’s funny… A Non-Sequitur, I believe it’s called?

  13. Juni says:

    I remember helping my dad come up with some funny words a while back… I think in the end, I came up with “waffle” and he said “chimney”.

  14. ima420r says:

    Poop

    Teehee

    My daughter is 9 and laughs when ever she hears it.

  15. Andy says:

    Gusset. And porridge.

  16. Rutskarn says:

    Cadge, nethers, jackass, nostril.

    My pet peeve is the overuse of ducks as funny animals. Yeah, I did get contractually roped into that one story with the guy and the duck totem, but ducks are overall pretty mild as far as funny birds go. Eagles can actually be pretty funny, if you use them right.

  17. Rolaran says:

    “Musical Instruments” is another good category to mine for inherently funny words. Just off the top of my head:

    Banjo, Harmonica, Bouzouki, Timpani, Didgeridoo, Alpenhorn…

  18. Vegedus says:

    Cowabunga. Dyslexia… For some odd reason. Omnotomorpho… Whatever. The word for a sound turned into a word, and the word for the phobia regarding really long words. Both long words. A lot of internet exaggerated slang like Lawl, Lollercopter, Lulz and so on.

    I think that once you’ve seen/heard a word used in enough humourous context, you begin to associate the word itself with humour.

  19. Manni says:

    humus

    and

    shenanigans

  20. scragar says:

    Vegedus(#25): Onomatopoeia?

    The way I remember it is to break it into 3s with the O-something-Os: ono, mat, opo, eia. Mat shouldn’t be too hard to solve, the ono and opo parts fix themselves, the only hard part is the very end, which is easy to solve if you just remember that the word ends sounding like you’re saying “pee ya”.

    As for words I find funny the only one I can think of is Banana.

  21. Legendary Bard says:

    The word “spool” is quite humorous.

  22. Gavin says:

    Here’s the appropriate Monty Python clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtNkaWJid9I
    (Feel free to ignore the video, the audio was originally from one of their records)

  23. Bryan says:

    Splanch!

    OK, not really a word, but a hilarious-sounding fake body part. (From Irregular Webcomic.) :-)

    (What, you wanted actual words? Aw, come on… :-P)

  24. Heron says:

    Spoon!

    Spoooooooooooooooooooooooooooon!

  25. Brandon says:

    Discombobulate and boob.
    Also, Mister Fancy Pants, care of Jonathan Coulton, from his show here in Cleveland in Octover.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LPY5Ay1bz4

  26. Ravens Cry says:

    Squishy.
    Squished, where the -ed is pronounced like the short form of Edward.

  27. Rutskarn says:

    Nearly forgot leprosy and carpet-bagger.

  28. Gobo says:

    Aquaduct

    Just love that word. :)

  29. Lanthanide says:

    Gourd. Codpiece.

  30. Sam says:

    I’ll go with a couple of old standards: banana and guacamole!

    Then there’s strudel. And, of course, chainsaw!

  31. kikito says:

    “Solar plexus”. Sounds like something you put in the roof of a house.

  32. Blake says:

    Milk, spork, shale.

  33. Don’t forget about onomatopoeia! Boink! Doing! Splut! As for non-onomatopoeia words… Duck. Chicken. Badger. Mushroom. Onion. Kneecap. I could go on all day with funny words.

  34. MPR says:

    I am thoroughly gruntled with this post.
    What, “disgruntled” is a word so “gruntled” should be too, right?

  35. Aaron says:

    Generally i would say anything with double o sound is pretty amusing. such as poodle, shampoo, food, balut, newt etc.

    I’m fond of avuncular, however

  36. RustyBadger says:

    Tartlet.

    Also, a second vote for the bulbous bouffant song. At random intervals around our house, you will hear someone shout “mukluk!”, “gazeebo!”, “foible!” or “blubber!”.

  37. CuChullain says:

    What is dagging, anyway?

    There is a saying here in Oz ‘dagging about’ which means to hang around aimlessly and comes from the saying to hang around “like dags on a sheep’s bum”.

    And for reference a ‘dag’ is the end result of a woolly sheep’s less than sanitary toilet habits.

    However, I doubt any of this has anything to do with knives.

  38. pwiggi says:

    I have 2 words that can make me laugh with no context:

    1. Cow
    2. Spoon

  39. Zeta Kai says:

    I recall that the use of the word “trowel” (as in a gardening trowel) would send my friend into stitches. It became a pervasive meme among our circle of friends. Also, the word “moist”, especially when spoken with a campy semi-lisp, would be enough to elicit laughter. They because the first of a short list of Silly Words.

    My personal favorite? Spunky.

  40. Mephane says:

    ballyhoo

    When I heard that word for the first time, from the mere sound it was obvious what it meant, heh.

  41. Kreek says:

    booger

    i have heard it said that booger can make small kids fall in fits of laughter just by uttering it

  42. someguy says:

    always triggers a grin on my german speaking mouth:

    Frolicking.

  43. Moon, fizzle, Albuquerque, troll, dink.

  44. Moon, fizzle, Albuquerque, troll, dink, asp.

  45. Chad says:

    Antidisestablishmentarianism, vulva, Richard. (I dunno, there is just something about that name.)

  46. Atarlost says:

    A few in no particular order:

    Wainscotting
    Britches
    Gasket
    Fig
    Voulge
    Guisarme
    Flemish
    Latvia
    Cartomancy
    Spam

  47. droid says:

    Bucket and puddle used in proximity to each other.

  48. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

    Deathtrap. You are going to use yourself as bait. To catch Death. Similar to the phrase “catch your death of ______.”

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