Dave’s WW of EU: Funner

Here’s another term that makes English teachers die. Funner and Funnest are often one of the biggest pet peeves of teachers and editors alike, but there are many problems with outlawing that usage. In particular, there are two big reasons the usage is seen as wrong. Let’s debunk both reasons:

  1. Most Superlatives (-er and –est endings for example) are supposed to be used with words of more than one syllable such as Pretty. When used with a one syllable word like Fun, you are “supposed” to use “more” or “most” instead of the –er and –est endings. However, English uses many one syllable words with the –er and –est endings such as Fast, so that rule can’t possibly be 100% accurate.
  2. Another possible explanation is that Fun is typically used as a noun which would technically outlaw the –er and –est endings. But that isn’t always true and many situations make it somewhat difficult to immediately identify whether Fun is used as a noun. To make this somewhat easier to understand, consider the word “television.” Every one here agrees that “television” is a noun. But what if I use it as in “television show”? Well, now it’s an adjective (I suppose you could argue you that it is a noun phrase consisting of two words, but work with me…). Fun works the same way. Plus, when Fun is used as an adjective, I’ve already shown that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to use a single syllable word with the superlative.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is two fold. First—Is it correct to say funner and funnest. Yes. Linguistically and grammatically, it is perfectly correct to use those terms no matter what your English Teacher told you. This is one time where your English Teacher was flat out wrong. Second—Is it standard to say funner and funnest. No. It’s not. Many people still consider those terms to be incorrect and non-standard. In this sense, your English Teacher was correct to steer you away from that usage.

What does it mean to me?

Well, it depends on your situation. If you are speaking, most people don’t pay as much attention to speech patterns, so you can probably get away with it. If you are writing, however, you should probably pay more attention and care to that usage. Still, more and more people are beginning to find that usage acceptable. I’m one of them. Keep your ears open and watch for it. When you hear most people using it, you’ll know that it is becoming standard.

Just remember, as in all grammar and usage, there are just some battles that aren’t worth fighting. Funner just happens to be one of those battles. Saying “more fun” won’t kill you, and you are guaranteed to look correct even if slightly pretentious. By the way, I should point out that the terms “more fun” and “most fun” are by no means incorrect. They are also correct in every way.

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One Response to Dave’s WW of EU: Funner

  1. rwgibbons says:

    Dave, thank you for addressing this very important topic!

    I have been a champion of “funner” for years. My missionary companions, my wife, and many more have ridiculed me for my usage, but oh, they’ll see. They’ll see that I was right all along. Then they’ll be sorry.

    The words “funner” and “funnest” absolutely do appear in dictionaries with no strings attached. I think we should be championing these words and revolutionize the world with linguistic epiphanies!

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