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November 16, 2018

I happened to be watching Strictly Come Dancing the other night, and one of the presenters – I can’t remember whether it was the tall one or the one who wears too much make-up – said that one of the dances had been “the funnest routine so far”.

Funnest? Back when I was a TEFL teacher I used to teach students that fun was a noun. There is an adjective funny but that has a rather different meaning. You can, of course, say “It’s fun”, which makes it sound like an adjective because it has no article; but it only has no article because it is an uncountable noun (as one might say It’s snow or It’s beer – but they’re still nouns).

At some stage, however, fun started on its journey towards adjectivehood. It began to be used attributively, as in expressions, like A fun time, or A fun guy (back in the 80s there was a joke doing the rounds: Q: What do you call a mushroom who buys you drinks? A: A fungi to be with. This joke doesn’t fully work on a grammatical level, as fungi is plural, not singular – but to the extent that it does work, it relies on fun being an adjective).

And now, it seems, fun has arrived in Adjectiveland and acquired citizenship. It has a comparative and a superlative. Still sounds a bit odd to my ears. No point arguing, though. Fun, funner, funnest. There it is.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    In It’s a Gift W.C.Fields referred to molasses spilled on the floor as “the spreadingest stuff I ever saw” but he was trying to be funny.

  2. Simon Carter permalink

    Thinking about it American commentators also sometimes refer to the winningest and losingest teams.

  3. Oh yes, Americans love this. I think I have even heard rooting-tootingest.

  4. Mark Brafield permalink

    Or – ghastly – ‘the hostest with the mostest’.

    I used to know someone who routinely described pretty much anything as ‘fun’, and this was 20 years ago. If you bought a shirt that was anything other than a boring work shirt, she would describe it as ‘a fun shirt’.

    On the subject of adjectival constructions, I have a friend who, like us, enjoys exploring and playing with words. He enjoyed mixing and matching adjectival endings, so ‘crap’ became not ‘crappy’ but ‘crapesque’. I highly commend this usage.

  5. John Dunn permalink

    Yesterday I saw a sign outside a school in Bologna that proclaimed (among other things): Learning English has never been so fun!

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