Why 'Funnest' Is A Word You Should Avoid

The word funnest sounds entirely wrong to my ears, and funner sounds even worse. I would recommend not using either. But both follow the regular rules for forming superlatives in English. Should we accept them?

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Our regular resource for all matters of language usage in Australia, the Macquarie Dictionary, notes that -est is used to form the "superlative degree of adjectives and adverbs". In the case of a one-syllable word ending in a single consonant, it's standard to double that letter when forming the superlative: baddest, thinnest.

While the Macquarie lists both those forms (superlative forms are always spelled out explicitly in the Macquarie, unlike past tenses), it does not included funnest. Yet it's clear we all know what it means (because we're used to that regular rule). Why the exclusion?

The answer is that fun was originally a noun, and the use as an adjective came much later. When we are talking about "having fun" or say something was "so much fun", we're describing an activity, an experience.

The Macquarie notes that fun can be used as an adjective, but adds the note 'colloquial'. Because it's a recent and informal usage, it hasn't yet become acceptable to derive the superlative forms of the adjective. It may well do so one day -- language changes constantly -- but that change hasn't become broadly accepted yet.

For that reason, I'd avoid using that form in any professional or formal context right now. Even in a more casual blog post, I'd try and avoid it by rewriting or reworking the offending sentence, because it is going to prove jarring to many readers. Accuracy matters, and so does readability.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


Comments

    "When we talking about".

    "When we talking about". Now that's funnest.....

    to the author
    i would also suggest greater detail in proofreading a piece about language and how it might be jarring to a reader ...from your piece .... "When we talking about “having fun” or say something was “so much fun”, we’re describing an activity, an experience" ....it really should read when we ARE talking about or even the more simple when talking about ....but when we talking about really does grate this insane lunatic when you are trying to be a word creationist buzzkill ...funner and funnest are legitimate and new words are created by a majority consensus using new creations not from somene telling them not to , although im a simpleton yak herder so what do i know

      Thanks for the correction, Muphry's Law strikes yet again. Language changes -- the post acknowledges that -- but it also functions because rules are in place. Right now, the rules suggest strongly this isn't a word to use in most formal contexts.

    This was the funnest read I've had in a while, I'll be sure to browse the site for even funner articles momentarily

    What about the word "cleanly"? I saw and heard it in an ad and for some reason it sounds wrong to me. Am I just being crazy?

    It was used in a 3M hooks ad; as in "the hooks come off cleanly."

      Sounds like a normal word to me; I've seen it used fairly often, e.g. the knife cut cleanly.

        Hmm, yeah I guess you're right. I think I just said it so many times that it lost all meaning.

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