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Words That Are Inherently Funny

by on January 15, 2011

In my most recent short story, the rather unimaginatively titled “A Princess Story” (well, that’s what it was. I calls ’em like I sees ’em), I wrote something about a character hiding behind a shrubbery. Trisha pointed out that this  reminded her of that famous Monty Python scene wherein the Knights Who Say Ni demand…”a SHRUBBERY!”. Then it occurred to me: would that scene have been quite as amusing if the Knights had demanded a geranium?  Probably not. Something about the word “shrubbery” just makes it automatically funny. There’s a lot of words like that, really. Some words are just funny depending on context. For example, bears. If you hear a person screaming, “Look out! It’s a wild bear! Run for your lives!”, that’s probably not funny. But on Psych when the police chief asks Detective Lassiter to work with Shawn Spenser and he responds “I would rather shower with a bear,” that’s funny. Bears can be funny or serious depending on the circumstances. On the other hand, there’s some words that are just hilarious regardless of the context. If I heard a person screaming “Look out! It’s a wild platypus! Run for your lives!” I would probably chortle. Then I would run.

Anyway, I put together a list of a few words that I nearly always find automatically hysterical.

1) Kumquat. There’s an episode of Adventures in Odyssey where an actual angel comes to town, and Jack and Jason are arguing about whether the angel’s genuine. That prompts this exchange.

Jack: “He said he’s an angel.”
Jason: “Well, sure, I could say I’m a kumquat, but…”
Jack: “But it’s obvious you’re not a kumquat, Jason.”

Ha, I say. Ha.

2) Water buffalo. I admit, I might not have found this particular animal amusing had it not been for VeggieTales. “Everybody’s Got a Ferret” just wouldn’t have been quite as silly, no?

3) Spork. Spoons: not funny. Forks: not funny. Combine the two: hilarity. And when you have a VeggieTales version of “Lord of the Rings”, where you have a whole army of Sporks (get it?), that’s comedy gold.

4) Cebu. Sing it with me! Cebuuuuuuu! (Incidentally, I’m a VeggieTales fan. Have you noticed?)

5) Slurpee. Or just the word “slurp” itself. You’ll probably never read a serious superhero story that says something like, “And so, as Dr. Edward von Stabbington prepared to destroy the world with the Evil Death Ray of Evil, he reached for his plastic cup and slowly slurped his Slurpee.Slushies are the same way too, as are Frostys. Pretty much any ice-creamy dessert, really.

So, what words do you find instantly amusing?


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  1. Your VeggieTales references bring me great joy.
    A word I find instantly amusing…
    Frothy. Its meaning isn’t particularly amusing but it’s fun to say. Froth. Froth. Froth.

  2. Ooh, frothy. Good word. Smock’s another word that’s fun to say. Smock…smocky…smock-like…

  3. Hmm. For me, “waft” … “Wafting, wafting….Oh, everybody loves their own brand,” when Fat Bastard sniffs his fart in Austin Powers 2. lmao. Perhaps it’s just me. Waft. Wafter. Wafting. Wafts.

    Okay, I’ll stop.

    So what is it that makes these words funny? The way the mouth moves? I dunno…

    • Have you, perchance, seen “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”? It’s a supervillain musical with Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. Very funny. Anyway, there’s a scene early on where Captain Hammer has just apprehended Dr. Horrible, and as the Captain is holding Dr. Horrible by the throat, he says, “It’s curtains for you, Dr. Horrible! Lacy, gently wafting curtains.” 😛

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