Thursday, July 09, 2009

Strange Usage and a Fun Debate

This comes from James M. Do read on; there are some gems in here.

A couple of months ago, I sent some statements my freshmen students made (and made me cringe!). I have discovered that bizarre usages are scarcely restricted to college students.

My wife and I are spending about eight weeks in Pompano Beach, Florida (smart move, right, in the summer?), so we read the Sun-Sentinel down here. In yesterday's paper, there was a feature article on the famous Ft. Lauderdale air show, which is resuming after a three-year hiatus. Jack Seiler, mayor of the city, called the air show "one of the neatest, one of the funnest events you can put on."

Ouch! Talk about things that make one "sic"! When and where did "fun" become an adjective and have comparatives? Young people use the expression "so fun" and "very fun" among other strange usages. Is there any hope?*

Also, in the online Paulist Press news for today, there was a headline, "St. John Neumann Stole for Pope." Good grief -- a cardinal breaking the Seventh Commandment?! Turns out the story reported that Obama is visiting the pope soon and will present him with the stole worn by Cardinal Neumann. Sigh of relief coming soon.

Finally, also relating to a mayor, a friend of mine was originally from Nebraska and proudly displayed the big "N" in the rear window of his car, as a supporter of their football team. One day, he said, he parked right outside city hall in Omaha. The mayor happened by, nodded to the sign and said, "You know, son, that letter doesn't just stand for Nebraska football. It also stands for knowledge." As the great Mark Twain once wrote, "Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene."

* SPOGG is going out on a limb here, but we think it's OK to use "fun" as an adjective. Bryan A. Garner says it's only as a "casualism," which is a hilarious stuffy word given its meaning.

Here's how "fun" has slid into the adjective forest, Garner explains in A Dictionary of Modern Usage. When we say, "This is fun," fun could either be an adjective or a noun. It's a short leap from this to full-fledged adjectivehood. He clearly hates it, though, calling it "casual at best."

Even though "funnest" remains a silly, awful word, there's just no way we can stop people from using it as an adjective, or they will rightly accuse us of not being

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