Why Jeff is So Funny

Week_z00Humor (being funny or amusing) is sometimes difficult to define and to understand. What you may find funny, I may not and vice versa (the reverse is true). A group of Canadian researchers, however, may have an explanation for why we find some words funny and other words not.

A psychologist (scientist studying the mind and how it works) named Chris Westbury was actually studying a condition called “aphasia,” problems with speech due to brain damage, when he observed something interesting. He found that each time the subjects (research participants) saw the word “snunkoople,” they thought it was funny. “Snunkoople” is not a real word. It is a nonsense word, or a made up (not real) word with no meaning. This got him thinking. Why are some nonsense words funny while others are not?

He and a group of researchers at the University of Alberta set out (planned and began) to find out. They showed people in this new study pairs of nonsense words and asked people which was funnier, the one on the left or the one on the right. Here are a few of these pairs of words:

Quingel or Heashes

Prousup or Mestins

Finglam or Cortsio

Witypro or Octeste

If you’re like the people in the study, you would say that the first word in each pair is funnier. Why? The researchers believe the answer is in something called “entropy,” a term they borrowed from other fields, including physics (the field of science concerned with matter (physical substance) and energy). Entropy, as they define it in this context (situation), relates to how much disorder (confusion) there is in a word. In other words, if a word looks like it could be a real word or is similar to real words, there is less disorder, less entropy. If the words are not similar, not expected, or strange-looking, there is more disorder or entropy and people think they’re funnier.

This is not a new idea. In the 19th century, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer proposed that things are funny to us when expectations (what we think will happen) are violated (failed to meet expectations). That’s why 20 clowns climbing out of a very small car may be funny to us, or you may laugh when Jeff sings like Celine Dion.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the daily applications (usefulness) of research, but not in this case. Not only does this general idea help us understand the brilliance (great talent and intelligence) of Jeff’s humor, but it may also save us some embarrassment. You may not want to name your child “Lnikproop” or your new product “Umhwegeegi.”

~ Lucy

Image Credit:  From Wikipedia

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13 Responses to Why Jeff is So Funny

  1. peter says:

    Hi Lucy,
    I m not prepared !!
    All of a sudden u got all technical and laid out a lot of biology on me.
    U throw a lot of supposedly funny words that are not funny,Not a bit !!!
    Well ,perhaps some mentally challenged individules as the article suggest find it funny.
    U know

    In my opinion Jeff is not funny per say. He had a sense of humour.
    Sounds confusing ?
    So , let’s come at it from a different angle.

    U know ,there is a huge difference between being funny and having a sense of humour.
    Yet, They always get mixed up.
    I personally have know Jeff as being a good sport which in and of itself means a good sense of humour
    I find ur scripts cheerful which is ,in my book ,synonymous with funny.

    Well ,in all fairness Jeff could be funny sometimes
    But , it is his sense of humour that always save the day : the ability to let go. Right ?
    I don’t know it is how I see Jeff
    But u know him better than me
    So , you are probably right !!


  2. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hi Lucy, whooyupky. Funny, isn’t it?

  3. rafsoc says:

    Funny words make us laugh. Why not to use more of them to enjoy our life? A kiss from Italy.

  4. Rasoul says:

    Hi Dr. Lucy,

    Thank you very much for this text.
    Besides your above reasons, I think Jeff is funny due to his shape.

    Just kidding Dr. Jeff

  5. Dan says:

    Hello Lucy.

    I am afraid that my free time is getting more and more eaten out by that giant that is You Tube.
    As my subscriptions are growing I have hours of interesting things to watch every day as I get home.

    To give you a outer space analogy, I would say you guys have the pulling power of the moon and YouTube is like Jupiter with his immense gravitational pull.

    It’s great how many interesting people there are out there.
    I also like watching animal’s videos.

    Let me see if I can “trigger” Lucy into opening up little bit and tell us what is he favorite talk show.
    At the moment I am watching:

    Conan O’Brien’s
    Ellen’s show
    Stephen Colbert’s
    Bill Maher’s
    I love Howard Stern’s
    I am even watching Wendy William’s

    May I ask If you Lucy like anyone of the mentioned above?
    You do not have ti answer. I will respect your desire to remain mysterious.

    Sorry I am going too much out of topic.
    I believe to say on behalf of everyone that Jeff is a great guy and we all love him. I actually believe that he’s good at singing.
    He should participate at something like American idol.


  6. Tania says:

    I like the funny, made up words, nonsense words.
    I can say that there is a trend using many, many diminutives, nonsense words, met at the young mothers.
    Many of them are exaggerated and annoying.
    I make up words in my language, especially diminutives, using them in an intimate climate.
    As I don’t understand the made up words mentioned by you, the context when we use them ,
    unfortunately they don’t make me laugh. We have to know very well a language for understanding
    all subtilities.

    Thank you.

  7. Tania says:

    Oh, Dan, I think we all would like to visit Rome, the Vatican… all Roman vestiges…all large cities from Italy!
    As the low cost flight is convenient to us, many people from my country are visiting Italy.
    I have a collegue… she has visited Venice for three times, Rome for twice, Milano, Florenta…

  8. Tania says:

    In my country there are snow and many minus degrees.
    What about you, Dan and Peter?

  9. Tania says:

    The first 2016 issue of the Learn English Magazine! Great!
    Last Laugh… “Your lectures cured my sleep disorder.”
    As we are still following you for many years, your lectures are not a human sleeping pill for us.
    Thank you.

  10. Tania says:

    Video Lesson… inspired by Apple Magazine about smart technology that could make utilities
    more vulnerable to hackers.
    We borrowed a lot of new words. In my country we use them with the same meaning:
    smart device, utilitati, electricitate, service, gaz, hacker…
    It was easy to understand all article… and the little professor is charming and funny.
    Congratulations , Pao!

  11. Tania says:

    Can you imagine? Accessing “hockey moms” from the article “Hockey Moms” by Jeff, we can
    access The New York Times with audio and video articles.

  12. peter says:

    Hi Rasoul ,

    So, it is not just me 🙂
    U know, I m on that with You

    Jeff does look funny.

    You know , to me he looks like cartoon characters which is not a bad thing.
    He is ,in a way ,cute !!!
    Sorry chief! Didn’t meant to be disrespectful!
    But I was dying to talk about this with sb :))

    U know , I don’t know weather or not you have seen all Jeff’s video clips over the past 10 years.
    U know ,if you go through his video clips u will notice that sometimes he makes funny noises. :))))))

    U know ,he is educating us rather seriously about a topic on the clip then ,all of a sudden ,out of no where, he makes a funny face ,then ,like nothing happened ,continues talking.
    I love the bit.
    It is very cheer ful and funny.

    He does it mostly through different eyes expressions. They are subtle but they are there.
    Man it is hilarious when he does it !!

    U know ,he reminds me of “Jim Carry” when he does it.
    U know ,what makes it all the more funnier is that he does them totally out of context.

    Some of his lines on audio clips are funny as well.


  13. peter says:

    U.S.I feel for you

    Blizzard watches have been issued

    I hear a huge blizzard is hitting East coast of the US.

    The talk is the hardest hit area are in for 75 cm of snow if the weather forecast holds.

    The city people are prepping the road
    Some cities in East cost are in the state of emergency.
    The harsh weather condition is supposed to last for one or two days.
    They need to get prepared for it the best they can.
    Still , there is no telling what damages the bad as. Blizzard may produce.
    What the blizzard delivers at the end is what they need to wait and see
    Man ,
    I have been there down that.
    The best course of action is :
    For people to hunker down,and the city to prep roads and get ready specially for power outages ,as the strong wind and heavy snow fall may knock down the power line in some areas

    It reminds me of Last blizzard in Toronto ,
    some area didn’t have power for days after the blizzard let up.
    The worst thing about blizzards is they are so unpredictable.

    They need to brace themselves and ride it out


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