In the movie, The French Connection, the Gene Hackman character, “Popeye” Doyle, asks one of the drug- dealing suspects if he is still “picking his toes in Poughkeepsie?” He knew one of the great secrets of comedy. The letter “p” is the funniest letter of the alphabet.
W.C. Fields may have been the first to recognize this. He loved pronouncing p-words with a laid-back sneer, although apparently Mr. Fields was often pixilated, which made him a bit of a pill on a personal level. Most of the time, he’d have rather been in Philadelphia.
Words that begin with a “p” just bring a smile to your face. That’s why Spongebob Squarepants lives in a pineapple. And why a pasta past-ah its prime is such culinary perfection.
The 90210 gang of Beverly Hills had their best days at the Peach Pit. The most famous groundhog in the world lives in Punxsutawney.
Also in cartoon-land, Porky Pig was partly funny because of the high “p-quotient” in his name. And tweety bird was always seeing a “puddy tat”.
Petunias are the perkiest of plants. Even sunflowers don’t seem as happy.
Penelope, perambulate, patchouli oil and pie are all associated, at least for me, with pleasant times. Pennies are from heaven.
Parse the name Pocahontas. Was that a real name or was she saddled with a wicked pun (depending on what a “hontas” is) as a result of her Indian-Chief father’s twisted sense of humour?
Maybe I’m being too perspicacious. However, I do know there is no funnier word in the English language than poop. Just ask a five-year-old.
I think it may be the way one’s lips pop when making the sound “p”. Pessimists won’t agree with this analysis, but optimists (i.e., second-hand “p” users) will.
Then there are personality types. How can anyone who is persnickety be anything but mildly amusing? And being peculiar isn’t being threatening. It’s more like being odd, in an interesting way.
Is there any dance number that’s funnier than a “paso doble”. Okay, that’s not a good example. It’s play-acting at killing a bull. Maybe “p” isn’t funny in another language, such as Spanish.
On the other hand, I’ve known many Pablos and read about a few Panchos in great literature and they were usually quite light hearted.
Say “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Now try saying “Susan Sharky sought several secrets shaming sorrowful Sam.” It may just be the subject matter, but some of the fun has gone missing.
Possibly, probably, potentially, periodically, penultimately and positively “p” is the funniest letter of them all. Did I have a blast writing this article? You bet your sweet patootie.
If you enjoyed the foregoing, you might also wish to read my follow-up story, The Most Serious Letter in the Alphabet.