Why ducks are funnier than cows


I came across some very interesting information recently in Richard Wiseman’s book, Quirkology. He explains that “People smile when they feel happy. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the mechanism also works in reverse: that is, that people feel happy simply because they have smiled.”

Of all the letters of the alphabet, the one that causes the human face to take the shape of a smile the most – thus making us feel happier – is K. Or rather, not the letter K, but the sound of K.

Richard Wiseman discovered this during his year-long LaughLab experiment to find the world’s funniest joke. One of the jokes he received went like this:

There were two cows in a field. One said: ‘Moo.’ The other one said: ‘I was going to say that!’

He decided to vary the animals and sounds in the joke to see if it changed the funny rating people gave it, and discovered that the clear winner was the duck version:

Two ducks were sitting in a pond. One of the ducks said: ‘Quack.’ The other duck said: ‘I was going to say that!’

Apparently comedy writers have known this for years. Words containing the K sound tend to get significantly more laughs than words without. And because of the smile effect, just saying or reading words containing the K sound makes us feel happier. This includes words like quack, sex, cool and Christmas, not just words that are spelt with a K. And it goes a long way to explaining the universal popularity of jokes beginning ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ and ‘Knock knock, who’s there?’ They make people feel happier before they’ve even heard the punchline. It also explains why saying f**k is so satisfying!

And here’s the very interesting thing for me. My name is Karen Kingston (two Ks). And I teach Space Clearing (one K) and Clutter Clearing (two Ks). Not only that but my two bestselling book titles are Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (2 Ks) and Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui (two Ks). No wonder Richard Wiseman named his own bestselling book Quirkology (2 Ks). He, knowingly, and I, intuitively, both cornered the feelgood market on Ks.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2010

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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One Response to Why ducks are funnier than cows

  1. Karen –

    Love this! In “The Sunshine Boys,” with Walter Matthau and George Burns, there’s a whole diatribe on how words with “K” are funny:”‘Pickle’ is funny, ‘chicken’ is funny.” And come on, “Knickers”??? Best word EVER.

    By the way, there were three pigs in that field too. The first pig said “Oink.” The second pig said “Oink.” The third pig said “Moo.” The other two looked at him. “What?” he said. “I’m trying to learn a second language.”


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