What is the funniest word? It’s a tough question to answer, and I needed an answer.
I looked far and wide, I traveled the four corners of the earth, I searched everywhere I could possibly search, and I did it with tremendous speed. Instead of talking to people, I went to Google.
The first search result led me to the alphaDictionary list of 100 funny words. After skimming through the lengthy list, I left unimpressed, although “gastromancy” was interesting. Gastromancy is a niche fortune telling method that takes readings from stomach rumblings.
From gastromancy I clicked to Merriam Webster, the well from which all words spring, where they offered 10 of the funniest words, but none of those words was, to me, satisfactory. Each word, like “bumfuzzle,” was too obscure.
I was looking for something a little different. I didn’t care about the sound of the word. I wanted a word we use in common, every day speech, a word we use so frequently we don’t realize how funny it actually is.
Quora, the site that puts these kinds of questions to regular people, like you, was my last resort.
After a minute skimming the responses, exhausted from my search, I left Quora more than a little disappointed, stomach rumbling.
Then, one day, I’m not sure exactly when or where, it came to me.
Funniest Word – Shortest Podcast
On my budding podcast in Episode 13, I announce my finding to all the world. The funniest word in human language is so worthy of the funniest word title that it gets its own episode – the shortest podcast episode ever recorded.
Yes, I had discovered the funniest word. But was this podcast episode really the shortest ever recorded?
I turned again to the Internet. My search for the Shortest Podcast World Record resulted in finding a podcast episode that was 35.94 seconds long. As I point out in the description of episode 13, my first podcast episode at 27 seconds easily beat that record.
If you have 27 seconds to spare, you can listen to that record-breaking first episode here:
I am not 100% sure but I am definitely 99.9% sure that Episode 13 is the shortest podcast episode ever recorded since the dawn of the podcast medium. I would also venture to say that no radio episode (the forefather to the podcast), and no phonographic record (the forefather to radio) – and not even any archaeoacoustic discovery (the forefather to the phonograph) – was ever as short as my podcast episode number 13.
Not to brag, but the entire episode from beginning to end clocks in at 0.9 seconds. Someone could now record at 0.8 seconds and beat me….but I am convinced I have the edge, because the word I say is the funniest of all the clean words in human language.
The funniest word in human language – the one that I recorded on episode 13 – the one that is 0.9 seconds long – the word that is not offensive, dirty, vulgar, obscene, or gross – the word you used at least several times just today – brace yourself – I have now completely prepared you – is the word “well.”
If you have one second to spare, you can listen to the super-short episode in this super-oversized player:
I should also add that I wanted to record the funniest word that is ONLY ONE SECOND LONG.
“Semicolon” is one of my favorite funny two second words.
“Pizzazz” is another of the over-a-second variety.
“Well is NOT a Funny Word”
When you read the word “well,” I already know what you are thinking: “Well is NOT a funny word, Josh. It’s just not funny. It never will be funny no matter how much you try to convince me.”
Well, I think it is. And that’s the reason I am writing this post.
I completely understand if you disagree with me. If you wrote a blog post a few months ago telling me that “well” is the funniest word, I wouldn’t have agreed with you either! Well, it turns out, is one heck of a complicated word. There are many meanings of “well” and not many of them are funny, so you are mostly correct.
For example, there’s the Jack and Jill “well” used to fetch a pail of water. We can agree that the water well is not the funny type of well. The most funny thing I can think of with a traditional water well, and I’m being absolutely straight with you, is the well would have to somehow be used in an unexpected way. What if, for example, the well was the only way to get water to brush your teeth at bedtime?
“Mom, I’m going to the well to brush my teeth.”
“Yes, dear, but remember to check the bucket for mold.”
That’s…not really funny.
Or how about this: what if, when bringing up the bucket from the bottom of the well, it brings up a kitchen sink, with a working faucet, disposal, and all? That’s kind of funny and unexpected. Yeah, I’m not good at this. Maybe you can think of something funny. I’m sure you can. My point is the water well is not the well I’m talking about, so let’s move on.
In other uses of “well,” there’s the one that implies, “let me explain that to you.”
“Josh, help me understand your blog.”
“Well, have a seat.”
A little funny. Not much, though. Except if you like jokes taken at my expense, which are actually 90% of my jokes, and arguably thefor this entire blog and podcast. (I defy anyone to tell me how having a “Josh Podcast podcast Show” is doing myself any favors.) Which leads me to my earth-shattering conclusion…
Well is DEFINITELY a Funny Word
There are a lot more uses for “well,” some funnier than others.
There is the I-hate-to-break-this-to-you well –
“Well, there’s good news and bad news.”
– that is akin to the have-a-seat well –
“Well, we’re out of cheese.”
– only said with a little regret in having to share what will follow. The difference is the have-a-seat version is said with an upswing and the hate-to-break-it-to-you version a downswing. There’s also the hesitant “well” said with a sideward swing, as if the -ell sound would carry on forever.
As I learned from iTunes reviewer RetroKeith, my use of “well” is one that would have made the early television comedian Jack Benny proud. I wasn’t familiar with this so I did a search and found that one of Benny’s better-known lines was “Well!”
This find, you can imagine, made me crazy-impressed with myself. Here I am, this random guy, who thinks the funniest word is also one used, speaking of forefathers, by the forefather of modern comedy.
The only problem with the Benny comparison is I didn’t say “well” exactly as he used it. “Well!” with an exclamation point has a few meanings. One definition makes it similar to saying “how dare you!” Or the other meaning behind “well!” is “I’ll be darned!” And there’s also the exasperated “well!” that means “I’ll be!”
Now allow me to explain the “well” said on my podcast. The well I used was the question “well?”
The question well is the most dramatic of all the wells. It can be said in a few different ways.
Within the spectrum of question wells, the least funny is the impatient “will you make up your mind?” well. The funnier “well?” is the previous one only used in a way that sounds less, well, impatient.
The funniest “well?” in my humble opinion is one that is hardly ever used because of its dramatic nature. The word starts at the bottom of the Adams Apple continuing down through the upper chest cavity before advancing upward along the throat and almost hitting the roof of the mouth, arching and de-arching the tongue throughout. Of every single well, well!, well?, and welllll; it’s a true feat to say the question “well” and it’s almost always worth it.
The meaning of the funniest question well is implied here: “Well? Don’t you think this word is the funniest 0.9 second word in all of human language?”
I can’t make this up!
I seriously just made all of this up.
I’ve Thought About Well More Than You
Well, I guess we’re done now.
In the “well” used in the previous sentence, I say “well” using the other definition that is never, ever, ever funny. It’s just rude. We use it to end a conversation. The one who says it knows it’s rude and the listener knows it’s rude, but it’s still perfectly acceptable to use in speech and toward the end of long-winded blog posts.
The Power of Well
So we’re done here. Why are you still reading? Why am I still typing? There are many other wells. I just don’t feel like typing anymore. Here are a few more:
- The I’m-going-to-disagree-with-you well
- The encouraging well
- The I-made-up-my-mind well
- The speak up well
- The confused well
- I got a typing “second wind”
- The do you have an opinion well
- The “well well well” well
- The answer to ‘how are you doing?’ well
- The giving up, ‘Oh well’ well
- The I don’t like my steak well done well
- Well, you don’t say
- Well then
- [I’m sure there are others]
- Wells Fargo is kinda funny
- there are all the well-trained, well-written, well-heeled, well-being, well-tested, well-made……..well-hyphen words, none of which are at all funny
And a good reader of this blog reminded me of some I forgot:
- The “I don’t feel well” wellness well
- The well?! well