Which sounds better, funner or funnest?

Jun 17, 2012

Remember the iPod commercial that ends with the line, “The funnest iPod ever”? Well, that little sentence drove people crazy because, according to them, it wasn’t grammatically correct. Would they have written it,  “The most fun iPod ever,” they say it would have been correct.

Anne Curzan, professor of English specializing in linguistics at the University of Michigan, has graciously agreed to join us each Sunday to talk about how our language is changing.  

She said the words “funner” and “funnest” seem to be more accepted among younger people. Curzan told Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller that younger speakers are trying to make the word “fun” behave the same way as any other regular, one syllable adjective. “And, one syllable adjectives usually take -er -est;  so tall, taller, tallest, therefore, fun, funner, funnest," she said.

Curzan also pointed out that the word “fun” is a relatively new adjective. “It’s been a noun since the 1700s, but it has only become an adjective in the second-half of the 20th century.”

Miller asked why “funnest” doesn’t sound as bad as “funner,” which, by the way, drives her crazy. “You know, I’m really not sure about that” Curzan said.

“Students have gone out and done informal polls, and it’s clear that “funnest” is not as stigmatized. People think that one is maybe okay. And the iPod commercial certainly doesn’t hurt. And then “funner” will become accepted in its wake.”

Will these changes stick with people?  Curzan said, “often what happens is that it at first drives people crazy, if they notice it, and then slowly but surely, people start to get used to it. And the people who don’t like it tend to be older speakers, and once we are gone, the younger speakers can keep doing what they are doing.”