". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Question for You Fun Word People

Today, while we were waiting for Sunday School to start, my two oldest children and I had a discussion about grammar. (Isn't that what everyone does while waiting for Sunday School to start?)

The issue at hand was the proper use of the word "fun." My daughter informed me that according to the grammar book she is reading right now (written by "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty), "fun" is only correctly used as a noun. So it is proper to say, "Did you have fun?" but improper to say, "That was a fun game." She (my daughter) observed that one mark of adjectives is that they have comparative and superlative forms (good, better, best; pretty, prettier, prettiest) but that we don't say say "funner" and "funnest." (Yes, we do say "more fun" and "most fun" but I think the grammar purists would argue that when we do so we are using "fun" as a noun, not an adjective, with "more" and "most" serving as  adjectives.)

I have to admit that, Master's degree in English notwithstanding, I had to stop and think about this one. Really? I can't go to a fun party or, after coming home from that same party state that "it was fun"?

I went to Grammar Girl's website and found this entry, in which she discusses the question at length. As with many points of grammar, it depends whom you ask.

So of course I'm asking you, my brilliant readers! Can "fun" be an adjective? What about "word"? If not, what am I going to do about the title of this post? And if I do nothing and turn out to be a descriptive grammarian hiding behind a prescriptive veil, will you still respect me in the morning?


Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

A phrase like "word people" is a noun construct, like "music lover", "fire department", or "hog farmer", where one noun makes another more specific. I forget what the specific term for that is in English (possibly because we construct it so seamlessly that it doesn't get much emphasis in grammar discussions).

As to "fun", English nouns and adjectives have always been quite flexible. Even if fun as an adjective is a recent innovation, what's the harm? But then, I'm a happy descriptivist (although quite a conservative one).

Cheryl said...

"A phrase like 'word people' is a noun construct"

Yes! Thank you for clearing that up.

"Even if fun as an adjective is a recent innovation, what's the harm?"

None at all, in my similarly descriptive opinion. :-)

Myrtle said...

I'll be Scrooge and say that I literally banned the use of "fun" and "nice" from all writing when I taught and when I tutored. They are such anemic words that say nothing. So, if you do not use "fun," then the problem is solved!

HB said...

When I have my teacher had on, fun is a no-no for the very same reasons that Myrtle mention. It is just weak and lacks substance. In casual speech or writing, so long as the audience is not unable to gather your meaning, I say, "Meh, whatever."

According to the 1828 and 1913 Webster's dictionaries, "fun" is purely a noun. If you check the current one, it is listed as having noun, adjective, and even verb forms.

HB said...

Ok - I clearly can't type... Sorry.

When I have my teacher hat on, "fun" is a no-no for the very same reasons that Myrtle mentions. ...

Rebekah said...

I generally frown on an adjectival use of fun. But I love splitting infinitives . . . .

Glenda said...

And I don't want to write or speak anymore because this post has made it not fun.

I'm only a little smarter in grammar than I used to be and only forge ahead in my ignorance and bliss.