Are We Having Fun Yet?

A reader asked whether we could shed some light on the correct use of the word fun; this is one of my pet peeves, so I’m only too happy to oblige.

I hear of people who had fun birthdays, movies that were funner than other movies, and vacations that were the funnest in the world. I even saw a category titled Funnest Party Boy on an ESPN list. Many of us are not amused—including my spell checker, which rejects both funner and funnest. On this, the software writers and I obviously agree. But back to the point…..

Fun is a noun, not an adjective. It is not in the same category as words such as blue, tall, attractive, ugly, unhappy, interesting, or complicated. Adjectives have comparative and superlative forms; nouns do not. For example, I have a large desk. (The adjective large tells what kind of desk. That’s what adjectives do—they answer the question what kind of.) I have a larger desk than you (comparative form). I have the largest desk in the office (superlative form).

Fun is not an adjective. It does not answer the question what kind of; that is, it does not modify a noun. It is the noun!

Many people now use the noun fun incorrectly as an adjective, but that doesn’t make it right. Perhaps some modern dictionaries have now acquiesced to the people who somehow have learned to use fun incorrectly as an adjective and list it as one. I don’t know, but that wouldn’t change the facts.

So, reader, that’s why saying fun painting is wrong. Your sister, as well as many other people, is using it as an adjective, but it’s a noun. The painting could be beautiful, intriguing, interesting, colorful, or intricate—all adjectives. What it cannot be is fun.


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