Thursday, May 8, 2014

25 of the Happiest Words in English

(from mentalfloss.com)



Isabel Kloumann and a group of mathematicians at the University of Vermont published a paper in 2012 on positivity in the English language. They took just over 10,000 of the most frequent English words from a variety of sources (Twitter, Google Books, The New York Times, and music lyrics) and had people rate them on a 9 point scale from least happy to most happy, collecting 50 independent ratings per word. In the resulting dataset, available here, "laughter" comes in at number 1 in perceived happiness, and "terrorist" comes last.

So what are the happiest words in English? They might be nice to hear. But it turns out that positivity heaped on positivity becomes, like sugar or a giant clown smile, sickening after a point. To illustrate this problem, here are the top 20 words: laughter, happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, joy, successful, win, rainbow, smile, won, pleasure, smiled, rainbows, winning.

As you go down the list in a binge of positive word reading, so many of the positive words start to sound crass (rich, diamonds, glory), treacly (butterflies, cupcakes, friends), or too obvious (positive, great, wonderful). The following 25 words, shown alongside their rankings, struck me as anchors of true quiet positivity in a sea of toothy grins:

159 -- easier

172 -- interesting

205 -- honest

211 -- forests

234 -- Saturday

239 -- dinner

290 -- comfortable

320 -- gently

344 -- fresh

371 -- pal

375 -- warmth

433 -- rest

449 -- welcome

491 -- dearest

504 -- useful

548 -- cherry

558 -- safe

584 -- better

665 -- piano

721 -- silk

741 -- relief

878 -- rhyme

892 -- hi

947 -- agree

969 -- water