Putting the F-U in Fun, a spontaneous Facebook conversation

The following conversation took place on my personal Facebook page between a dear high school chum and me. The grammatical content, while perhaps not as sexy as you’ve come to expect, is still useful and may open your eyes to some misuse of the word fun. And please share this post widely. You will note in the final lines below that my pal is looking to get famous with this little conversation.

Dear Sexy Grammarian, Diva of Diction, Dominatrix of the Semi-colon, etc. [insert salutations here];

Whenever I hear people use the superlative “funnest” in conversation I wince. I was taught that the superlative of the word “fun” was irregular, e.g. “fun, more fun, and the most fun”. However, I have noticed that it has become acceptable to use the word (if we can call it that) “funnest” in conversation. I have always been led to believe that this is grammatical suicide and take a perverted pleasure in correcting people when they use this term. Even my computer agrees funnest is not a word. My partner says I should get over it and just give in to the funnest? What do you think?

Signed Righteous Reader of the Most Fun

Dear RROTMF,

You’re correct that there is no such word as “funnest,” but you’re not exactly walking the straight and narrow path of a traditional grammarian if you’re using “fun” as an adjective at all.

In fact, “fun,” in its formal meaning, is a noun, as in, “It would be fun to see my old pal Benton.”

However, to say that my pal Benton “is a fun guy,” not only sets a listener up to consider that he might be a mushroom, but it employs a relatively new and informal use of the word “fun” as an adjective.

So your favored “superlatives,” “more fun” and “most fun,” are correct as long as you aren’t really using them as superlatives, which are almost  always inflections of adjectives.

“We shall have more fun at our reunion than the class of ’89 did at theirs,” is correct and formal.

“Benton is the most fun mushroom in the dung pit,” is fine, better than, “the funnest mushroom,” but definitely not the queen’s English, which I know you prefer to use.

All this said, a great way to earn a reputation for being less than fun is to take a perverse pleasure in correcting the speech patterns of friends. Speech, after all, is dialogue, and dialogue is informal.

Note the advice of writer Mike Sirota, whom I featured on my blog just a couple of weeks ago. Mike has some great advice for writers tackling dialogue, and one thing he insists is that dialogue ought to sound like it sounds in real life. And that means grammatically incorrect sometimes.

So go ahead and bask in the glory of being correct, RROTMF, but save the red pen for formal, written materials. And when you are uncapping that red pen for the sake of formality, be sure you know the formal rules.

And thanks for the question. I had a lot of fun answering it. Do you mind if I cross post to my blog?

Fondly,

The Sexy Grammarian

Thank you for your wise and sagacious response. It’s a relief to know that I can rest in my battle against “the funnest”. Of course you can post in ur blog, but will that be counted towards my 15 minutes of fame???

Benton, darling, I think it’s only fair to admit that I had to look up “sagacious,” and now I am blushing. You are too kind.

I will post to blog ASAP. I’ve never considered my merits as a “Dear Abby” type column, but why not? Whether to count it as a few of your fifteen minutes will depend entirely on how many hits we get. I will keep you informed.

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    • Ginger Chew
    • July 13th, 2010

    Love it. Next will you please explain the acceptance of “snuck” in writing and conversation?

  1. Awesome, Kristy! But now you’re opening the flood gates. You’re always my go to on these questions. Now, you’ll just get even more. Beware 🙂

    By the way, I also *love* your new look and feel here!

    • lora
    • July 15th, 2010

    I love the idea of an advice column by you! This exchange was highly entertaining and informative for me. I’d love to see you explore the word ‘towit’. I feel like I’ve seen it used in several interesting ways. Just got into an interesting conversation about it tonight, and we thought it was precisely the case for the Sexy Grammarian to crack!

  2. Okay, you three, I have duly noted your requests and will get right on it.

    Ginger, you just snuck out of nowhere with that! Let me look into it.

    Renata, thanks for the kind words. Raeme did it. And I have your question on my desk, collecting ideas.

    Lora, well, look here, an example of “to wit” upon my desk! I’ll tackle it right away. And welcome to the blog. Glad to have you reading.

    And a fame report for Benton: This post has more than doubled my readership, so I think it counts against your fifteen minutes. Thanks for helping me boost my numbers.

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