Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Do you judge a word by its sound? Are some words inherently funny?

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I love to think about words, the meaning of words, and even the SOUND of some words. Do you do that, too, or is it just me?

I’ve read that some words are considered inherently funny. One source I was looking at traces this idea to a 1936 article by journalist/curmudgeon H. L. Mencken, in which he says “k words” are always funny. (I think Neil Simon used this idea in his play “The Sunshine Boys.”) Think about that, and you’ll realize various cartoonists often show their characters speaking or spelling “hard c” words (cop, carrot) with “k”s as a humor device (kop, karrot), don’t they? And sometimes “hard c” words just sound odd or funny to me, even when they aren’t. The word “corset” comes to mind. It sounds funny to me, for whatever reason, though it really isn’t inherently funny at all. Maybe it’s another example of a “hard c” word that’s funny in my mind as a “k word”?

But I’m also interested in words which simply sound like one thing, yet mean something else. My favorite example is the word “genuflect.” Since I first heard that word, I have always thought it sounds like something which should be obscene, or perhaps just linked to one of our private body functions not discussed in public.

And, of course, it does have something to do with bodily function. But it isn’t a private bodily function, and it isn’t anything near obscene. On the chance you don’t know what the word means, I’ll leave you on that note and encourage you to look it up.
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