“Fun, Funner, Funnest”?
Several readers have asked for a post about the use of fun as an adjective.
Many English speakers cringe at usage like this:
One of my funnest rides I’ve owned was a chevy S-10
Knitting is funner than cleaning
So we had this really fun week…
What’s the most funnest online game?
The fourth example is doubly unacceptable since it uses most with the –est ending, but the other examples reflect a usage that is in the process of becoming standard.
The word fun probably originated as a dialect pronunciation of Middle English fon, which as an adjective meant “foolish” and as a noun meant “fool.” The Middle English verb fonnen meant “to be foolish, to be infatuated.”
By the 1680s, fun could be used as a verb meaning “to cheat, to hoax.” Dr. Johnson didn’t like fun; he called it “a low cant [slang] word.” This verbal use of fun is still heard in American dialect: She said she’d thrown out my lucky shirt, but I knew she was just funning me.
The earliest example in the OED of the adjective funny, “mirth-producing,” is dated 1756.
Contemporary use of fun as an adjective is on the cusp between nonstandard and standard English. It will eventually prevail as an adjective in all its uses, but for the moment, educated opinion is against it, at least in its comparative forms.
Because I’m already accustomed to the noun fun used attributively in an expression like “fun fair,” I don’t have any trouble accepting a sentence like “He’s a fun guy.”
The word “funner,” on the other hand, strikes my ear as babyish. To the under-30, it probably sounds as inoffensive as “clearer” or “higher.”
Bottom line: For the next 25 years or so, careful speakers and writers will avoid comparing “fun” as if it were an adjective.
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