February 2013

February 2013: Line in the Sand

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

The Funniest Word in the English Language

Frank Dunne Jr.

It all came down to idiot, knucklehead, jackass, and crackhead. Those were my finalists for Funniest Word in the English Language. Idiot won, and the reason is this: I use it at least 100 times a day, and it never gets old. It always sounds funny, even when I just think it. That’s because the individuals and their words or deeds warranting the label are so stupid that I have to laugh to keep from crying. You see, there is so much stupidity in the world, and I encounter way too much of it every day. Without this coping mechanism, I’d be pretty depressed. Hang on to that, because we’re coming back to it.

Now, picture a guy sitting up in his bed, bleary eyed and sleepless, in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning, typing away on his MacBook with a big bandage wrapped around his right thumb and some invisible ghost trying to tie his left deltoid muscle in a knot. Yeah, that guy is me, and that’s the moment I realized idiot isn’t the funniest word in the English language. It’s pepperoni. Yeah you heard me. Pepperoni. How can that be, you ask? Trust me. I found a way.

There I was, the prior Sunday evening, fixing a little snack before sitting down to write about the word idiot. There I was, happily slicing a pepperoni sausage into those wonderful little bite-sized pieces…until the knife missed its mark and sliced through my thumb. “Oops! Got a little nick there. Rinse it out, slap on a Band-Aid and I’ll be all set.” The Monty Python guys couldn’t have written this better. “Just a little flesh wound, old chap. No reason to go all wobbly.” Meanwhile the kitchen floor is starting to look more like a slaughterhouse floor, and Roommate will be back from walking her dogs any second. Two hairy little dogs running around in a sea of blood is a story not likely to end well.

Think, man. Think! Wrap the thumb in a towel, wipe the floor and dash upstairs to wash out the cut and get a better look. By now the once-yellow towel is a half red/half yellow towel, and in a few seconds, my bathroom sink looks like the crime scene in the Jodi Arias murder trial. We’re beyond Band-Aids here. This is a good time to point out that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, because the last time I was in a hospital for myself was, I believe, sometime around 1994. “Yeah, I think there’s this thing called the ER that I’m supposed to go to. I saw it on TV.” Roommate on the other hand has, unfortunately, dealt with a variety of illness over the years. In fact, I’ve rushed her to the hospital on more than one occasion, and I believe she’s on a first-name basis with every medical professional from here to Boston. An expert.

“Ummm. Roommate?”
“Huh?”
“I think I might need your help with something here.”
“Sure, what is…holy s***!”

On our way to Rampart General, Roommate described the excruciatingly painful procedures that I was about to endure, i.e. the local anesthetic (a needle jammed through my thumb) and the tetanus shot which, according to her description, would be the equivalent of having a Roman short sword run through my arm with the “real” pain coming later. Roommate seemed to take a perverse pleasure in this unexpected turn of the worm. I got the last laugh, though. I’ve had local anesthetic needles like that one stuck into my gums for wisdom tooth extractions. On the thumb, hah! As for the tetanus needle, by the time I’d asked the doc when he was going to stick it in, he’d already removed it. Apparently Roommate forgot that I’m half Kryptonian.

So, you’re wondering, how does that make pepperoni the funniest word in the English language? Simple. A seemingly innocent pepperoni sausage became the crux of a series of unfortunate events so monumental, so profound, I had no choice but to call myself…wait for it…an IDIOT!
But that’s just my opinion.

Courtney Hampson

Irregardless of how many people actually use the word irregardless, it still isn’t a word. What I enjoy most about this word that isn’t a word, is that it is so often used that it actually appears in the dictionary with a note conceding its use but clarifying that it is, in fact, not a word. Allow me to share the entry with you: Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis.

If you have a couple hours to burn, and you consider yourself a grammarian (noun. a specialist in grammar.) as I do, you could get lost on the “Grammar Girl” website. The “Girl” tells us that, “Some people mistakenly use irregardless when they mean regardless. Regardless means “regard less,” “without regard,” or despite something.

The prefix ir- (i-r) is a negative prefix, so if you add the prefix ir to a word that’s already negative like regardless, you’re making a double-negative word that literally means “without without regard.”

I find this bit of sarcastic grammar correction to be extremely entertaining, however, regardless of the joy I garner from the over-use of this word err, non-word (is that a word?), I actually can’t dub it as the funniest word because well, it isn’t a word. With a quarter of a million distinct English words to choose from, I toyed with ketchup, colonel, and hors d’oeuvres whose spelling has just always rubbed me the wrong way. And, I channeled my inner James Lipton and pondered both my favorite (serendipitously, retort and prelude) and least favorite (titillate, frank*) words.

But alas, hubbub is my final answer edging out brouhaha by just a hair. Hubbub. H-u-b-b-u-b. Hubbub. Why yes, I’ll use it in a sentence. Hey there, what’s all this hubbub about?

Every time I hear it (I rarely see it in print) I have a little chuckle with myself. Hubbub makes me think about when I was young and my sister and I used to ride our bikes to the Corner Grocery (the “Co Gro” if you were in the know) and buy gum.

If we weren’t going for controversial Garbage Pail Kid cards, Hubba Bubba was always my choice—namely because I liked saying Hubba Bubba. Go ahead, say it. Hubba. Bubba. It’s funny, right? So clearly it’s only natural that, by extension, hubbub would top my funniest word list. While it is steeped in whimsy and suggests a certain lightheartedness, the definition of the noun is: noise, uproar, confusion, turmoil.

The use possibilities are endless. There was a quite a hubbub on the Senate floor today as Senator So and So’s toupee flew off whilst staging a raging filibuster. Al Roker caused quite the hubbub when his recently released book stirred a renewed interest in the interview clip during which he reveals that he accidently pooped his pants at the White House. A hubbub ensued as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West left the restaurant, revealing a new baby bump. So, I heard that Jim showed up at the party with his new girlfriend and, thirty seconds later, his ex, Hillary walks in. It was quite the hubbub.

Irregardless of what Frank thinks, hubbub has to be dubbed funniest word in the dictionary.

*Did you catch that?

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