9 Silly Words Every Parent Should Teach Their Kids Published May 18, 2020 Some words are so funny they make us laugh when we say them out loud. Whether it’s the way they tickle the tongue, or just the goofy way they sound, some words prompt giggles when we blurt them out. As a matter of fact, scientists say the word giggle, which means “to laugh in a silly way that is punctuated with repeated gasps for air,” is one of the funniest words in the English language. Of course, what causes a laugh varies from person to person. Scientists say that the emotion a word elicits when it’s said is what leads to the belly laughs. (So what sounds funny to you, may not sound funny to someone else!) It’s worth noting that not all words that sound funny have humorous meanings. Yarborough, for example, means “to be dealt a hand of cards where no card is higher than a nine” but it’s on our funny list. Here we’ve rounded up nine words you may not have encountered in everyday conversation that are sure to get the giggles going for both you and your kids. WATCH: Is "Silly" A Positive Or Negative Word? bumfuzzle Do not let this fuzzy-sounding word confuse you. Bumfuzzle has less to do with texture and more to do with understanding, since the word means “to confuse or fluster.” You can be bumfuzzled (the act of being confused) or you can bumfuzzle someone else (when your words or actions baffle another person). You can also find something bumfuzzling. Bumfuzzle is first recorded around 1900–05, which means it has been making people laugh for more than 100 years. As long as nobody gets too befuddled by its meaning, it will be making people giggle for at least 100 more. catawampus No, catawampus is not that thing your cat does when it gets a little stir-crazy in the middle of the night. The adjective catawampus actually means “to be askew, awry, or to be positioned in a diagonal fashion.” The silly sounding word has nothing to do with felines at all, unless of course, your cat is lying crookedly or in a diagonal manner. In that case you could have a catawampus cat. The word first appeared around 1830–40, and according to one theory, it breaks down as cata- meaning “diagonally” (like cater-cornered) and wampus, akin to wampish (“to wave about or flop to and fro”). If you want to use the word catawampus for more than a laugh, use it to describe something that sits cater-cornered. For example, the person who lives next door to the person directly across the street from you would live catawampus to your house. codswallop You might guess that codswallop is what happens when you get hit with a fish, but the word is actually British slang for “nonsense or rubbish.” Harry Potter fans should be familiar with the word, since it was used by Hogwarts’ favorite groundskeeper, Hagrid, in the first book about the boy wizard. The word was first recorded around 1960–65, which makes it fairly new by the standards of this list. Consider saying it when hearing something you know to be false: “No, that’s codswallop, I never said we could eat dessert before dinner!” If codswallop doesn’t do it for you and your kid, consider trying poppycock. The words have similar meaning and are both indisputably wacky. collywobbles You may feel inclined to use the British-sounding collywobbles to tell your friends what happened on your way home after too many pints at the pub (you collywobbled), but this word actually has a more emotional meaning than that. The noun collywobbles refers to intestinal problems (like cramps), or a “feeling of fear, apprehension, or nervousness.” A case of the collywobbles is not something many people would find amusing, even if saying the word is good for a laugh. As a matter of fact, the word is believed to be a combination of the words colic (a common newborn affliction that often results in untold hours of fussiness and tears—from both parents and the afflicted baby) and wobble. Collywobbles is first found around 1815–25. If you want to use the fun-sounding word, you can use it to describe anxiety about an upcoming event. You might say, “This impromptu Zoom meeting that my teacher scheduled is giving me a case of the collywobbles. I hope I didn’t fail my test.” flibbertigibbet This word is not one you want to hear hurled at you, nor is it something you’re likely to call someone else, since flibbertigibbet means a person who is frequently “chattering or flighty” and can be taken negatively. Older in origin than most of the other words on this list, flibbertigibbet is found in English around 1425–75, and it traces back to the Middle English word flepergebet. If you want to add this word to your personal lexicon (and truly, who wouldn’t?), you can use it in the place of words like ditsy or flighty. You might say, “I’m reading this great book, but I can’t seem to come around to the main character. He is such a flibbertigibbet, always forgetting where he put his glasses and wandering off task.” lallygag Popular among parents (who’ve probably used it to describe their children more than once), the word lallygag means “to spend time idly or loaf.” The word is an Americanism that dates back to 1860–65. Lallygag is a great word to describe lazing about, lagging behind, or dawdling (another good word!), but your children are less likely to find it humorous if it is being directed at them. Instead you can share a laugh and use it to talk about other things. Instead of lamenting that your Wi-Fi is running slowly, consider accusing it of lallygagging. Racing the clock to get your cocoa warmed up before the movie previews are over? Try saying, “No lallygagging, stove, we’re on a tight schedule!” nincompoop It’s pretty obvious what makes this word funny (it’s the poop part; everyone laughs at the word poop). A nincompoop is “a fool or simpleton.” The word, which has nothing to do with feces despite the fact that poop is part of it, was first recorded around 1670–80. Its origin is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the only thing sillier-sounding than nincompoop, is the noun nincompoopery. As in, “I don’t want to hear that you’ve been bothering your class with all that nincompoopery again!” Even if you add the word to your verbal diet, you might consider just a light-hearted use. Some people will take offense to being called a nincompoop … so you might use it just for giggles! skulduggery Arrrr, me matey! If you think skulduggery would be something a pirate gets up to, well, you would be half right. The word feels like it’s lurking behind a corner, which isn’t surprising considering it means “dishonesty or trickery” and is used to describe dishonorable proceedings, bribery, graft, and other no-good things. So you can use it to talk about the antics of pirates—or anyone else engaged in bad behaviors! This American variant of the Scottish term sculduddery entered the English language around 1705–15. We hope that you have no real experience with skulduggery in your personal life, but if you want to start using the word, go ahead and apply it to a whole host of terrible things. For example, I thought I returned my library book before it was due, but this is showing I have late fees. I better make sure there’s no skulduggery afoot before I pay them. vomitory Here’s another word that’s funny because of the word that appears within it. (Although we’d argue that there’s nothing funny about vomit when you’re the one producing it … or the one cleaning it up … and especially not if you’re the one doing both.) A vomitory is something you take to induce vomiting. Why would someone want to do that, you ask? There are a whole host of medical reasons to induce vomiting (like when a poison has been ingested), and a vomitory can be helpful in an emergency. If you tweak the word vomitory slightly to vomitories, you can use it to describe “an opening through which something is ejected or discharged” (much more fun than talking about puke, in our opinion). The word vomitory comes from the Latin vomere (“to vomit”). It is evidenced in English around 1595–1605. To elicit more giggles about ejection in your home, try using it to describe an exit: “Let’s go kids! Hurry up! Through the vomitories, single file!” And if you’re looking for more funny words to start using around the house, read through this slideshow (because we can’t get enough either). Note: some may not be kid-friendly!