Funner and Funnest

Thu May 25 14:00:06 UTC 2006

        I hadn't previously thought of "fun" as a word of comparison,
but I've noticed my 14-year-old daughter and her friends often use
"funner" (though, to date, I haven't heard "funnest" from them).  Both
funner and funnest do seem to be taking off.  "Funner" gets 942,000
Google hits (though some of these are for a virus of that name) and has
1798 uses on Westlaw's allnewsplus file, of which the earliest is from
the Boston Globe on 6/22/1981:  "It's funner at the Boys' Club. You can
play lots of games and stuff. Everyone should belong to a Boys' Club."

        "Funnest" is actually more popular, with 1,590,000 Ghits, even
without a virus to help it out.  Westlaw's allnewsplus reports 3135
hits, the earliest from Erma Bombeck's syndicated column, run in the
Boston Globe (and presumably many other newspapers) on 6/13/1982:  "One
of the "funnest times" our kids ever had was on a camping trip when a
counselor got caught in the bus door and they had to get her out with a
blowtorch."  Google Books has a passage from a 1973 Senate hearing,
itself apparently quoting p. 203 of an earlier source:  "The guys with
the most words, the most action, the most noise, always prove that they
have the fastest cars, funnest games, most lifelike dolls.  No claims,
no benefits, except 'fun'." There is not enough information to verify
the date or to determine the original source of the quote.  George Seay
Wheat, The Story of the American Legion (1919) also uses "funnest," but
the context suggests this may be a typo for "funniest."

        As these early hits and my own experience show, it is primarily
children who say funner and funnest.  As those children grow up, though,
it seems likely that Michael Quinion's caution as to the terms'
informality,, will not
apply forever.  M-W already allows "sometimes funner" and "sometimes
funnest."  American Heritage, in contrast, still cautions that writers
may want to avoid the use of fun as an attributive adjective, as in a
fun time, a fun place - a usage that seems to me to be entirely

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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