Quick: what are the three happiest words in the English language?
If you’re a late-night partier, you may have thought “happy hour prices.” If you’re a working stiff, your answer may have been “today is payday.”
If you’re a mathematician like The University of Vermont’s Peter Dodds, however, your answer may have been “laughter, happiness, love.” In 2011 Dodd authored a study that in part ranked more than 10,000 words for “happiness;” and the top three were “laughter, happiness, love.” Dodds and other researchers then measured the frequency of those words in 10 million Tweets that were posted in 2011 and tagged to 373 U.S. urban areas.
The results of their work has been making news this week – they determined that based on the Tweets, Napa is the happiest city in the U.S.
The words that Dodds and his colleagues ranked were those that most frequently appeared on Twitter and in Google Books as well as in music lyrics from 1960 to 2007 and the New York Times from 1987 to 2007. In his paper, Dodds describes how the researchers determined the mood of a word:
For the evaluations, we asked users on (the Amazon website) Mechanical Turk to rate how a given word made them feel on a nine point integer scale, obtaining 50 independent evaluations per word. We broke the overall assignment into 100 smaller tasks of rating approximately 100 randomly assigned words at a time. We emphasized the scores 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 by stylized faces, representing a sad to happy spectrum.
Here is the full list of words ranked by happiness, as well as the average happiness score each word received. The five least happy words on the list are “terrorist,” “suicide,” “rape,” “terrorism” and “murder.”