|Posted by d436d750 on September 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM|
I am writing this essay in the defense of fun, or more specifically, funner and funnest. I can practically hear certain people cringing at the mere mention, the thought of those inflections, and that’s okay. I like to think that anyone who cringes at that kind of usage is doing so because they are careful people. They are the kind of people who don’t like language abuse, might even go out of their way to make corrections and often have good reasons to do so, but I believe that in this instance, the anti-funners are wrong.
First, let’s look at the three different ways that fun can be used. The oldest definition of fun is as a verb and has largely fallen out of use. Anymore, we don’t go around funning one another as a means of joking around. Even my word processor doesn’t recognize funning as a word, so while I don’t trust it to check my spelling and grammar without error, I think it’s safe to say that while dictionaries recognize this usage, it is no longer common. But no one is arguing against fun the verb, so let’s move on.
We have fun as a noun, which is the most contemporarily accepted use of the word. One could say that they attended the party for the fun just as easily as the food or the company, and no one would question them unless the party was a bust, which is more a matter of personal taste than semantics. I think it’s safe to say that most people, even the most stringent language experts, also find this definition of fun to be acceptable.
The disagreements start when people use fun as an adjective. I can have fun just as easily as I can have cake, and I can fun you with the false promise of cake, but as soon as I say, “Cake is funner than pie,” I’m going to turn a few heads, and I don’t think that’s very fair unless you are partial to pie.
Many would argue that the discrepancy here is a matter of descriptive linguistics (saying how things are) versus prescriptive linguistics (saying how things ought to be). Most linguists are descriptivists, they lay out how language is actually used by the people who use it. They tell us that we used to fun one another with jokes and pranks, and that anymore we usually just joke and prank each other for the fun of it. They also tell us that increasingly English speakers are using fun as an adjective in informal circumstances, and they recognize that it is not being used in formal writing. For example, in casual conversation and writing, people are using fun as an adjective, as in “The party was fun,” and their meaning is understood. However, if someone were to use fun as an adjective in an official report of some sort, it would be looked down upon.
It is my experience that most prescriptivists are primarily concerned with preserving language, with preventing linguistic degradation and promoting effective and efficient usage. There are plenty of ways of expressing the fun that one has had without resorting to using it as a descriptor. Even if fun is accepted as an adjective, it is this group that deeply resists attaching the -er and -est endings to modify fun. The most intense cringes are the result of someone saying, “The tilt-a-whirl is funner than the tea cups, but the rollercoaster is the funnest.” I think that this is the reason for most of the resistance to using fun as an adjective. The regular pattern conjugation of the comparative and superlative for English adjectives with one syllable is -er and -est, but for some reason, even those who are linguistically liberal enough to accept fun as an adjective insist that it should be inflected with more and most instead.
But I’m not here to argue for the regularizing English. Given enough time, that happens on its own. And I’m not trying to promote linguistic tolerance, though I do tend to err on that side when it doesn’t concern a formal document or setting. I argue on behalf of adjectival fun and its inflections funner and funnest because of the very nature of the word in question. I think that people who try to regulate the word fun are really missing the point of the word. It seems to me that individuals who argue against using fun this way sound stuffy and stuffy and stodgy, like they don’t really know what fun is. What right do they have to tell me how to have fun when I’m not hurting anyone? Aren’t there a lot of different ways to have fun? Maybe their idea of fun is keeping a tight reign on other people’s fun, which doesn’t seem very fun-friendly to me. In fact, it sounds like no fun at all.