Is It Okay to Say Funner and Funnest?
It’s hard to be a grammar nerd. Because I am a reputed devotee of all things linguistic, I am held to higher standards by family and friends. I can take it, of course, because I tend to dish it out as well. I just feel sorry for my poor kids.
Yesterday I got a text from a “concerned” friend who was driving one of my tween-aged daughters around town and overheard her utter the word funnest (horrors!). He couldn’t resist the urge to immediately text me about this shameful degradation of the language.
Was my friend right in insisting that the proper term should have been most fun? It’s not a simple answer, I’m afraid.
The word fun has been around for a long time, but was used exclusively, until some decades ago, as a noun — as in “We had some fun at the moving picture show,” or “This Model-T should produce some fun, eh, chum?” But since at least the 1950s, the use of fun as an attributive adjective has been quite common. Fun is used as an adjective in sentences like the following punch line:
A mushroom steps up to the bar and the bartender says, “Sorry, buddy, we don’t serve mushrooms here.” The mushroom replies, “Why not, pal? I’m a fun guy.”
Traditionalists dig in their heels and reject the use of fun as an adjective. So, they would frown upon such expressions as a “fun party” or a “fun time.” But the whelming flood of common usage inevitably wins out over the picayune pleas of these pathetic purists. The fact is that fun functions just fine as an adjective and most dictionaries have acceded to this usage.
So, if we accept fun as an adjective (which my bothersome friend unwittingly admitted to by insisting on most fun as the correct expression), the question is: What are the correct comparative and superlative forms of the word? The rule is actually pretty consistent: One-syllable adjectives are made comparative by adding -er and superlative by adding -est, with a doubling of the final consonant necessary in some cases.
It’s how it works for other one-syllable adjectives: tall, taller, tallest; wise, wiser, wisest, tough tougher, toughest, fat, fatter, fattest, etc. It seems logical to me, therefore, that this rule apply to fun, unless you dig in your hide-bound heels and refuse to accept fun as an adjective.
There is no rational defense of “more fun” or “most fun.” Any questions?
This has been the funnest blog post yet.
First-class post it is surely. My mother has been seeking for this update.
I’ve got to say, I don’t agree with many of our language’s adjustments to accomodate usage, and my grandmother shamed all the funner’s out of me as a child, but you’ve won me over. Funner and funnest make sense.
Glad to hear it Judy. Not that I’d want to tangle with your grandmother! I think all of us writers and English teachers tend to balk at what seems like sloppy usage. But language inexorably changes over time, and I think that’s a good thing.