Linguistic Context in Name Humorousness: A Controlled Study with South Asian Film Stars

Wei D. Duffy, Woody de Falle, and Wahid Yeddf Aae

Linguistic context in name funniness is a complex, multifaceted and still unresolved issue within Funny Name Theory (e.g. Bauble & Doodle 2003, Dingleberry et al. 2006, Crinkles 2009). Some

Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone

researchers, notably Hissy & Fitt (2011), have gone so far as to call into question the inclusion of any non-native language names in funny name venues, as it constitutes cultural insensitivity at best, linguistic imperialism at worst. Theirs is an extreme position, but it must be admitted even on purely pragmatic grounds that while a name like Deepika Padukone might elicit chuckles in an American Funny Name community, it would not seem the least bit “funny” in a South Asian context. Conversely, putatively plain sounding names like Alice Wilson or Janet Smith might induce
Deepti Bhatnagar

Deepti Bhatnagar

sputtering guffaws in rural Bulgaria. Livv & Lettliv (2009) propose “splitting the difference” insofar as such differential indices of cross-cultural name funniness become an issue; that is, let Australian Funny Name communities giggle over Deepti Bhatnagar, whilst Senegalese Funny Name communities chortle with mirth over Betty Robinson.

It is beyond the scope of the present study to resolve these intractable issues, if indeed they can be resolved at all.
Our aim is rather to clarify certain linguistic and cross-cultural factors of name funniness using a rigorous experimental model and unbiased sampling.

Aarti Chabria

Aarti Chabria


Bhumika Chawla

Bhumika Chawla


Sonam Kapoor

Sonam Kapoor

We chose narrow range name selection (e.g. Hubba & Hubba 2001) over broad spectrum sampling (Woolf & Whissel 2012) to control for chance linguistic recognition that could compromise results in a

Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka Chopra

multi-lingual name pool. We concluded that results would be most informative if names were drawn from personages well known within their national or regional milieu but completely unfamiliar to English speaking responders, who would rate name humorousness on a seven point Likert scale.

Our sampling pool was drawn from well known personages from the South Asian film industry, sometimes loosely termed “Bollywood.” To further narrow the sampling focus and reduce statistical anomalies induced by name-to-gender match-up inferences, we limited sampling to female names, for entirely objective and purely statistical reasons. Sequential displays (representative images are shown here) were composed following the minimalist procedure of A.M. Burr’s (2014) Winter Olympian Gallery, that is, with almost no supporting text.

Suman Ranganathan

Suman Ranganathan

Kajal Agarwal

Kajal Agarwal


Kajol Devgan

Kajol Devgan


Twinkle Khanna

Twinkle Khanna

We emphasize again that display samples were determined following a completely unbiased selection protocol consistent with our experimental model, and not preferentially influenced in any way by physical attributes of those within the sample cluster . . .

To read further, subscribe to Bulletin of Funny Name Studies. Make checks, money orders, or massive digital transfers payable to Y. D. D. Faye, circulation director and treasurer of the Society for Humorous Name Research.

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38 Responses to Linguistic Context in Name Humorousness: A Controlled Study with South Asian Film Stars

  1. unfetteredbs says:

    Haaa. Not preferentially influenced…

    Woolf and whissel. Dinglebery indeed 🙂

    Amb needs to do a post of an equal experimental model

  2. Pingback: Empirical Studies of Name Funniness | What Do You Do for an Encore?

  3. Arto says:

    This is the greatest piece of science I’ve ever read. And i’m pretty sure I read Bauble & Doodle 2003 back in college. Grand stuff.

    The names are fantastic too. Excuse me while I go ahead and google Aarti Chabria for some further research into…names…and…theoretical propositions. Yes.

  4. Arto says:

    Twinkle Khanna? Twinkle! That’s gotta be funny even “over there”. At least as funny as Susan.

  5. ksbeth says:

    god, i love everything about bollywood

  6. Dave says:

    Wow. Everyone is outdoing themselves this week… Arto’s poetry on Monday, then this brilliant, peer-reviewed* scientific manuscript on Tuesday.

    * It’s peer reviewed because I read it and I think it’s awesome!… that’s how this process works, right?

  7. Bumba says:

    The Funny Names Blog has risen to new depths of journalistic disgrace, and I am impressed as always. And I think you’ve really hit on a great idea: a magazine where all you want to do is to look at the pictures! I amk truly thankful to the Funny Names blog and herein attach a financial contribution. Oh, the check is in the mail.

    • wdydfae says:

      I urge you to redirect your contribution immediately to the person and organization identified in the last portion of the post. The Funny Names blog does not have the infrastructure or requisite know-how to process financial contributions at this time. Again, please redirect your contribution immediately to Y. D. D. Faye.

      • Bumba says:

        Shucks. OK, I’ll just have to send another check as a token of my appreciation

        • wdydfae says:

          Or why stop at two? If you make a five year pledge of support on our Premium Gold plan, we can bump up your standing from “Contributor” to “Patron of Funny Name Science.”

          • Bumba says:

            Wo!. Do I get Frequent Flyer Miles with that Golden Patron plan?

          • wdydfae says:

            We’ll look into that, but you certainly get a complimentary plaque with the inscription:

            M. Bumba
            Patron des Sciences de Noms Humoristiques.

            We’ll also give you a discount on wall mounting and lighting installation if you want to display that in your home and impress friends and family.

  8. Liz says:

    science? pshaw–this is not science. If you want science, read my last week’s post on Hervé This (though not a funny name in France as you explained so well). That was pure gold science.

    [Yes, that’s right folks–infighting at BoFN. Hang on to your seats. It’s going to get ugly.]

    AND, your studies are suspect. I’ll be turning them over to the National Science Academy of Fraudulent Funny-Named Studies. I believe the head of this organization is a man named U. R. Makingthisup.

    p.s. something I learned a while back, which I’ve never been able to demonstrate with my impressively clever and brilliant Funny Names in Food Posts, is that a tag of “Hot babes” will get you lots of hits and likes. Next time, diddy, next time…

    (pssst–did I do ok? pretending to be fighting amongst ourselves? Like that would ever happen, we’re such a good-natured bunch.)

    • wdydfae says:

      [Faux infighting! Kewl! OK, how about this?]

      To the editors

      Sometimes knowledge is obtained through the painstaking identification of variables, through meticulous experimental design and statistical analyses to determine p values, and the like. And sometime knowledge is obtained through what the young people call, I believe, a “Google” search. After reading this “critic’s” puerile and spurious “review” of our work, it is not surprising that she could not grasp the former, that is, the most rudimentary elements of experimental and statistical design. Perhaps, then, she can apply herself to “Googling” instead, since this simple operation would establish that our display data was not “made up” but obtained from easily verifiable “real world” sources. It is most interesting, in fact, that this author should manufacture slanderous charges of fabrication–the same author who openly admitted to the prevalence of fabulism in Funny Name presentation, in the infamous Urban Shocker thread. Projection, anyone? As for the other “criticisms” lobbed at our work, we refuse to dignify them with a response. We admit, however, that tagging display samples in such a way as to better monitor reaction influx might be an appropriate supplementary protocol with regard to future experimentation. If our critic had limited herself to such practical observations–rather than preposterous psychologizing and outrageous accusations–there might have been somethine more to gain constructively from her critical review.

      Respectfully,

      Duffy, de Falle and Aae

      [Did I fan the flames of fake infighting enough, Liz? Got any lighter fluid?]

      [And by the way, I’m never–sniff–gonna get quanity hits at BoFN. If even Kyary can’t do it, what hope is there?]

      • Liz says:

        sheesh–you told me! If only I understood what you were saying up there, though suffice it to say that I’m all about Googling. Google google google, that’s me. Also, an overuse of quotations. Just sayin’

        But yes, overall a splendid and also scathing rebuttal. Color me scorched.

        And btw, hits schmitz. It’s all about the fun here. I’m thinking BoFN hits started tanking shortly after Dave “hired” us all on as extras. Too many cooks in the kitchen. But as long as we have a bottle of rum (food for fun foreshadowing), I’m good hangin’ with my BoFN posse. When we’re not slinging verbal arrows, of course.

        • wdydfae says:

          Scorched? Well, if total dissembling and misdirecting is scorching, then I guess so! I didn’t even know what I was saying. The key point was deflection from the fake citations to the real actresses and then throwing in words like “spurious” and “outrageous.” Pretty smooth, huh?

          Darn it Liz, we can’t do this faux fighting if we keep dropping the personas and caveating. We’re hopeless at this.

          Let’s just face it, we’re just too golshdurned nice.

  9. I’m not sure which made me laugh harder, the comments or the science!

  10. Pingback: Archie Panjabi | The Blog of Funny Names

  11. Pingback: Just a Twinkle in a Dimple Rinkle? Not So Simple: Beautiful Dynastic Belles of Bollywood | The Blog of Funny Names

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