Funny Words You Probably Don’t Know Published September 15, 2020 Words are funny things. Not only because they sometimes look strange (queue, we’re talking about you) or have unusual origins, but also because they just plain old make us laugh and giggle. What’s a fartlek? Or a shivoo? Chances are, even if you’ve never heard these terms, they might cause you to crack a smile. And who doesn’t revert back to a silly 12-year-old when the word booty is used to describe a treasure? If you like your words silly, strange, and sometimes salacious, this slideshow is for you! Read on for some of the funniest words in the English language bumfuzzle Bumfuzzle means “to confuse or fluster.” First recorded as a U.S. regionalism, this word is less popular (but much more hilarious) than some of its counterparts, like befuddle or bewilder. And, to confuse people even more, consider naming your puppy bumfuzzle. “Bumfuzzle! Come here, boy!” That’s sure to turn some heads at the dog park. canoodle Canoodle is defined as “to caress, fondle, or pet amorously.” This one is spotted in many a tabloid headline about celebrities, well, canoodling. It might be a blend of caress and noodle! cattywampus This word sounds like the kind of folksy thing President Lincoln might have said, and it’s from his era: the 1830s. Our definition also includes the spelling catawampus. If the word is used as an adjective, it means “askew or awry; positioned diagonally; cater-cornered.” As an adverb, it means “diagonally or obliquely.” Example: The economics lecture hall is catawampus from the hockey arena. Much more fun to say than its definition. diddly-squat The word diddly-squat is a direct linguistic cousin to doodly-squat. The term is used with a negative context to denote something that is minimal and inconsequential. Example: That doesn’t mean diddly-squat. And, that’s that. diphthong This is a funny word that is hard to spell: diphthong (a phonetics term referring to an unsegmentable sound, like the OI in oil). It’s been described as the “the best word ever,” and while that may or may not be true, the combination of dip, which can refer to a clueless individual, and thong, which is a style of underwear, creates auditory splendor. dongle Oh, the dongle … that little piece of computer equipment. The exact origination of the term is unknown. Slate took a deep dive into this word, though. It picked up a sexual connotation in tech circles and caused a rather pronounced kerfuffle (see below). When we solicited opinions on the word internally, one response was, “It makes me uncomfortable.” How does the dongle make you feel? Boom chicka wah wah … doohickey A doohickey is a “gadget; a dingus; a thingumbob.” One of those little things that sits in the kitchen junk drawer. “Honey, have you seen the garage doohickey?” “What’s the doohickey for the computer called … a dangle?” fartlek The word fartlek stands for a training technique associated with runners. Swedish in origin and borrowed in the early 1950s, this word is funny for two reasons. First, it sounds like a bodily function, which appeals to many of us on some addled Beavis and Butthead, high-school level. Second, many words can be made to sound funny just by adding -lek to the end. Heh-heh. gobbledegook Gobbledegook is “language characterized by circumlocution and jargon; it’s usually hard to understand.” The gobbledegook of government is hard to understand. For proof, turn on C-SPAN. jackalope The word jackalope is a totally fictional portmanteau, but it’s still fun. As anyone who’s traveled the American West will inform you, a jackalope is a jackrabbit with … antelope horns. See ’em all the time. The jackalope was the clever invention of two brothers who proudly sold the first prototype for $10. Keep your eyes peeled for other portmanteaus hiding in plain sight! kerfuffle Kerfuffle is pretty popular. It is a British word meaning “a fuss; commotion,” as in The gas-price hike caused quite a kerfuffle. It’s mainly used in British English, as it originates from a Scottish Gaelic word combining car (“twist, turn”) and fuffle (“to disarrange”). mugwump The term mugwump stands for “a Republican who refused to support the party nominee, James G. Blaine, in the presidential campaign of 1884.” The word also means “a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, especially in politics; a person who is neutral on a controversial issue.” You might have your own meaning for the word—say, for example, your parents told you a story when you were growing up about the mugwumps who live in the woods behind your house … or is this an even more embarrassing name for the non-magical humans in Harry Potter? shivoo Shivoo is Australian in origin and stands for a “boisterous party or celebration.” You can totally imagine this happening Down Under, mate. Or, maybe in your college dorm room last Thursday night? snark Used as a verb, the word snark is a “mysterious, imaginary animal.” (Who knew? Probably Lewis Carroll fans, or anyone who has read The Hunting of the Snark.) Use it as a noun to refer to rude or sarcastic criticism. People can be snarky, too. Tina Fey is a classic (yet uproarious) example. Lewis Carroll coined this snappy word, along with many more! Read about them here. snollygoster Although it’s not generally used in contemporary culture, we have a definition so we’re going with it. A snollygoster is a “clever, unscrupulous person.” The word dates back to the late 1840s and was used in the South to refer derogatorily to a politician. It might be connected to snallygaster, a mythical creature from rural Maryland that’s half reptile and half bird and preys on children and poultry. That word may come from the German schnelle geister, meaning “quick spirits.” And, fittingly, J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them includes an entry for it. booty The funniest word in the English language is booty, according to a 2017 survey by researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK. Booty can mean “valuable stolen goods, especially those seized in war,” or just “something gained or won.” Perhaps, though, the folks who participated in the survey were thinking of the idiom “shake your booty,” in which case booty is slang for buttocks. discombobulate For starters, discombobulate is amusing to say. It’s a verb that means “to confuse, upset, or frustrate.” Then, there’s the word’s origin: it’s thought to be a whimsical variation of discompose or discomfit. We’re discombobulated by the idea that this word could do anything other than make the person who is upset or frustrated burst out laughing. collywobbles Feeling anxious about something, such as speaking in public? You could say, “I have butterflies in my stomach.” Or, simply exclaim, “Collywobbles!” Stomach grumbling? You can also use the noun collywobbles to describe your upset stomach. The word seems to have been created from cholera (the disease) and the word wobble, meaning “unsteady.” Collywobbles appeared in print in the 1823 edition of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. But as far as we can tell, collywobbles isn’t very vulgar anymore. crapulence What the “crap” does crapulence mean? Well, it’s not related to the word crap, a vulgar term of excrement, for one. Crapulence is a noun meaning “sick from excessive drinking or eating.” It comes from the Latin word crapula, which means “intoxication,” and from the Greek kraipalē, meaning “hangover.” Then, again, after a night of partying, you do feel like crap[ulence]. flummox Flummox means “to bewilder, confound, or confuse.” It’s a word that generally grabs a person’s attention, so it appears in lots of headlines, such as, Stock markets flummox masses. It likely comes from the old English word flummock, meaning “to make untidy or confuse.” Charles Dickens was one of the first writers known to have used it in his 1837 Pickwick Papers: “And my ’pinion is, Sammy, that if your governor don’t prove a alleybi, he’ll be what the Italians call reg’larly flummoxed, and that’s all about it.” gazump The verb gazump means “to cheat a house buyer by raising an agreed-upon price at the time a contract is to be signed.” Gazumping also occurs when a seller accepts a verbal offer for a property from one buyer, and then accepts a higher offer from someone else. Gazumping is more likely to occur in the UK, Ireland, and Australia than in the US, where most states have laws that prohibit this practice. But in the US, gazump is slang for a politician who takes bribes, and that has proven to happen … often. However, we’ve also seen the word used to describe the sound two hippos make when mating. A trip to the zoo, anyone? panjandrum A panjandrum is someone who claims to have a great deal of authority or influence. Claims is the key word. Panjandrums are pretty pretentious and pompous. Samuel Foote, a British dramatist, actor, and theater manager, coined the word in 1755 during a lecture in which he performed a piece of nonsense prose. During World War ll, the term was used to describe a not-so-funny explosive device designed by the British military, also known as “The Great Panjandrum.” Luckily, it was never used in battle. smellfungus It’s understandable why people avoid a smellfungus; however, it’s not because of their scent. A smellfungus is “a person who complains and bickers to everyone about meaningless matters.” This word also comes from a fictional character in Laurence Sterne’s 1768 novel, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Smelfungus is based on Tobias Smollet, who complained about almost everything in his 1766 travel book Travels through France and Italy. widdershins Widdershins (also spelled withershins) means “to go counterclockwise or in a direction opposite of the usual way,” such as the apparent course of the sun. The adverb comes from the Middle High German widdersinnes (literally “against the way”). In folk myths, walking widdershins was considered bad luck. But in a Jewish wedding ceremony, a bride circles her groom counterclockwise seven times before marriage. Luck really is in the eye of the beholder. pussyfoot Pussyfoot is one of those very literal words, but that doesn’t mean we don’t chuckle every time we hear it. It’s defined as “a person with a catlike, or soft and stealthy, tread,” or as a verb meaning “to move cautiously.” We aren’t going to pussyfoot around the sexual connotations associated with this word. Because, let’s face it, that’s part of what makes it a contender on this list. While you’re chuckling at this ridiculous words, teach your kids even more silly words that are sure to tickle their funny bone. Then help them understand the difference between ludicrous and ridiculous.