Fun and Funner

We had a German exchange student once who kept confusing ‘fun’ and ‘funny.’ He would say, “We played paintball. It was funny,” or, “That was a fun joke.”

It’s funny – not ha-ha, but odd – that these two words behave this way. ‘Fun’ ought to be the noun, and ‘funny’ the adjective – like ‘love’ and ‘lovely,’ or ‘salt’ and ‘salty.’ And yet they can both function as adjectives – with different meanings. ‘Fun’ also works as a noun, but ‘funny’ is stuck with being an adjective.

They come from a common root: ‘fon,’ meaning ‘to befool,’ or ‘a fool.’

Going off in another direction, ‘fon’ is also the root of ‘fond,’ which used to mean ‘foolish.’ It is probably in this sense that Juliet uses the word when she tells Romeo,

“I am too fond; and therefore thou mayst think my ‘havior light.” (Romeo and Juliet 2.2.102) She fears that he may think her frivolous or silly.

Here’s something else that’s funny about ‘fun.’ Most one-syllable adjectives add -er and -est to form their comparative and superlative forms, e.g. cold, colder, coldest. Longer adjectives use ‘more’ and ‘most’ – beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful.

But we don’t say, ‘fun, funner, funnest,’ except informally. Correct usage dictates ‘more fun, most fun.’ (Dax prediction: ‘funner’ and ‘funnest’ will be considered correct within ten years.)

We do say, ‘funny, funnier, funniest.’

Neither ‘fun’ nor ‘funny’ happily takes the adverbial suffix -ly. ‘Funly’ is not a word; though I’ve heard ‘funnily,’ it doesn’t strike my ear right.

And there are the idioms:

‘Making fun’ of someone recalls the obsolete usage – making a fool of someone.

‘Have fun,’ is an odd sort of command. As if fun could be demanded.

‘Fun’ is more versatile than its cousin; it can even be a verb (informally), as in, “I’m just funning you.” (Which must be said with the proper accent: “I’m jess funnin’ ya.”)

Both ‘fun’ and ‘funny’ are subjective concepts. For example, I think it’s fun to look up words, while most people would just find that funny (odd, not ha-ha).

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