• Alex

"Funner" vs. "More fun": History and Recommended Usage (Audio reading included)



I have often said that language is democratic. This means that the speakers of a particular language ultimately get to decide which words and phrases are accepted in communication, and which words and phrases are considered out of fashion. Before you roll your eyes and accuse me of saying that language does not have any rules, and that people can say whatever they want, remember that languages evolve over time, and that common usage and what people actually say will trump grammar books almost every time, and that new words and word uses get added to dictionaries all the time regardless of you feel about them. This is certainly the case in the debate over "funner” and “more fun.” So, before we answer the question “Which one should I use?”, we need to travel back in time to understand how this funny debate started.

History: The beginning of "fun" Today, we use “fun" as both a noun and an adjective. You can have fun (noun form) or have a fun time (adjective form). Even if some dictionaries list the adjectival form of "fun" as "casual," every modern dictionary recognizes both uses. But this has not always been the case. So, let’s have some fun and look back at some history. To begin, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "fun" actually started as a verb meaning "to cheat, joke, or jest." The earliest documented use the OED has of "fun" as a verb dates back to 1685. No, I'm not funning with you.


Our usage of “fun” as a noun meaning “enjoyment” or “pleasure” first appeared in the early 1700s. The word kept this meaning and usage for over 100 years. Then, in the early 1800s, publications on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean started using “fun” as an adjective as well. And if it was being used in magazines, then it was definitely being used in pubs and factories. Not everyone agreed with this usage, of course. As has often been the case throughout history, people in upper classes, or simply those who thought that “proper language” had to be protected and preserved, frowned upon the usage of “fun” as an adjective. But, as is also often the case, that did not stop people from using it. And as more people used it, and as “fun” became accepted as an adjective ("a fun time," "a fun show," "a fun concert"), people naturally started wondering, “What are the comparative and superlative forms of ‘fun’?” So, in the late 1800s, we started seeing “funner” and “funnest” appear in print. You can see the quotes in the Merriam-Webster article below.

Why “funner” and “funnest”? Going by comparative and superlative adjective rules, “funner” and “funnest” make sense. The general rule is that regular one-word adjectives are transformed into their comparative forms by adding -er, and into their superlative forms by adding -est. For example, small becomes smaller and smallest, cold becomes colder and coldest, fine becomes finer and finest, and so on. But “funner” sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? For example, "Brenda's party was funner than Julia's."


"Hmm," said the grammarians. "Why not make fun an exception?" This meant putting "fun" in the category of two-word adjectives that don’t end in -y, such as daring and careful, and three-word-or-more adjectives such as courageous and ridiculous?"


In these cases, English speakers add “more” for comparatives, and “most” for superlatives. For instance, more daring and most daring. So, even though it is a one-syllable adjective, let us add it to the "more" and "most" category because “more fun” and “most fun” just sound better, don’t they?


...Do they? And this is the debate we have been having for decades.

Wait. So, which one should you use? What is funny about this is that while “funner” and “funnest” make grammatical sense if we try to force them into the established order of grammatical rules for comparatives and superlatives, most people’s autocorrect programs (including the one I am using right now) will mark them with a red line to indicate that they are in fact incorrect. So, if you want to be safe, stick with “more fun” and “most fun” in formal contexts, as these are what most grammar books and dictionaries mention today, and which sound most proper, but know that there is still a fun debate to be had on which one is technically correct, as “funner” and “funnest” apparently came first and do follow established grammar formulas. So, the next time someone tries to correct you on your use of "funner," you can always tell them these fun historical and grammatical facts to explain why the debate around "funner" and "more fun" is not so simple. Isn't language fun? Until next time, thanks for reading. If you had fun with this short history lesson, and if you enjoy the other articles on my blog, please consider supporting me by purchasing one of my books. Thank you, and I wish you success with your studies.

Resources:


https://www.etymonline.com/word/fun?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymonline_v_14248


https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/are-funner-and-funnest-real-words-usage


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fun


https://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wc/no-fun-noun-yes-adjective-well/#:~:text=The%20Oxford%20English%20Dictionary%20says,a%20noun%2C%20the%20OED%20says.

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