Happy words

30/12/2012

Isabel Kloumann and other mathematicians from the University of Vermont published a paper on positivity in the English language.

Arika Okrent looked at the list and decided you can have too much of a good thing:

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). . .

She looked at the list and came up with her own list of 25 happy words:

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

My 25 happiest words are: love, laughter, smile, family, friend, home, happiness, warm, compassion, gentle, book, music, sing, content, celebrate, satisfaction, secure, water, swim, walk, heal, well, fit, helping, sleep, and achieve.
Hat tip: Beattie’s Book Blog.

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