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The Language Perfectionist: Fun and Games

Consider these comments, found online:

  • “All the kits in this bundle are so fun.”
  • “Why is college so fun? No parents!”
  • “How fun is your workplace?”

In these quotations, the word fun, a noun, is used as if it were an adjective. It’s not good English. Why do people do it? Garner’s Modern American Usage explains: “Unlike other nouns of emotion, fun hasn’t had a corresponding adjective to mean ‘productive of fun.'”

To be correct, the examples above simply require the insertion of the adjective much – e.g., “All the kits in this bundle are so much fun.” Lacking that fix, the phrases so fun and how fun are informal and slangy, or what Garner’s calls “casualisms.”

Still further removed from standard English are intensifiers such as funner and funnest, which aren’t even legitimate words.

These locutions might be forgivable in conversation and texting, or for jocular purposes. But in serious and formal situations, it’s best to treat fun as a noun… even if observing the rules isn’t as much fun.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.