I coined this term, or rather my computer did, so I know the etymology. It was created by a computer program called 'LINGUA' (The Language Independent Neighbourhood Generator of the University of Alberta; http://www.psych.ualberta.ca/~westburylab/downloads/lingua.download.html). LINGUA made the nonword using a statistical process called a Markov chain, which makes nonwords by mimicking the statistical structure of a language, in this case English. I originally made it to use in a task called 'Lexical Decision', which asks subjects to decide if a string of letters is a real word or a nonword. 'Snunkoople' was the string that inspired my colleagues and me to conduct some research into why some nonwords are funny:
Westbury, C., Shaoul, C., Moroschan, G., & Ramscar, M. (2016) Telling the world’s least-funny jokes: On the quantification of humor as entropy. Journal of Memory & Language, 86, 141-156.
I am trying to get 'snunkoople' accepted as an English noun, meaning 'a nonword that sounds funny', as in the sentence "'Finglam' is a snunkoople."
"A group of researchers at the University of Alberta have developed what may be the first mathematical theory of humor, all thanks to a funny-sounding nonsense word: snunkoople.
Psychology professor Chris Westbury was studying people with aphasia, a disorder affecting language comprehension, when he noticed something strange. Subjects were asked to read strings of letters and identify whether they were real words. After a while, Westbury noticed subjects seemed to laugh at certain nonsense words—snunkoople in particular."