LINGUIST List 15.107

Thu Jan 15 2004

Disc: Re: "Fun" as an adjective

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. karen, Re: 14.3514, Disc: New: "Fun" as Adjective
  2. Catherine Rudin/HU/AC/WSC, Re: 15.90, Disc: Re: "Fun" as an adjective

Message 1: Re: 14.3514, Disc: New: "Fun" as Adjective

Date: 15 Jan 2004 15:30:10 -0000
From: karen <>
Subject: Re: 14.3514, Disc: New: "Fun" as Adjective

Re: 14.3514
>"Key" would be another example of a noun used as an adjective that
somehow does not ring true as predicate adjective. Although "The game
was fun" works, "The game was key" does not seem to.

Although it appears that this is a follow-up comment, and I can't find
the original message in the Disc archives, I have noticed what seems
to be a new use (and meaning) of 'fun' as a predicate adjective. 

Consider the following examples:

1. Said by a child while jumping on a trampoline:
 "This is fun!"
2. Said by an adult to a child as they try a new game:
 "I told you this would be a fun game."

3. Said sarcastically by an adult while sitting in a traffic jam:
 "Well this is fun."

In the above examples, 'fun' means 'pleasurable/enjoyable' and the
referent of 'this' is (or implies) an activity--jumping, playing, and
sitting. All of these examples sound perfectly fine to my ears.

In the past several years, however, I've heard the following:

1. Said by a saleswoman, as she selected a dress for me to try:
 "Here's a fun one."

2. Said by my daughter-in-law about a new kind of purse:
 "Aren't they fun?"

3. Said by an interior designer:
 "This is a fun look."

In the above examples, 'fun' refers not to an activity, but to a
thing. And a far as I can tell (having seen the 'things'), it means
'slightly zany; whimsical; not to be taken seriously'. 

The use of 'fun' in this sense seems to have been coined by the
fashion/design/creative industries, and limited to this arena. It also
seems to be a national phenomenon, as I heard #3 on a TV show.

Re: 14.3579

Ellen Valle asks if 'funnest' is becoming common in American English--

I deliberately use 'funnest' every once in a while with my students
(ages 4-18) just to see what the reaction is. The youngest ones accept
it without even noticing, but the older ones--maybe 9 and
above--always correct me with something like, "Uh, I don't think
'funnest' is a word."

Fun topic.

~Karen Milligan
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Message 2: Re: 15.90, Disc: Re: "Fun" as an adjective

Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 09:27:37 -0600
From: Catherine Rudin/HU/AC/WSC <>
Subject: Re: 15.90, Disc: Re: "Fun" as an adjective

Just a couple of data contributions on "key" and "winningest":

"Anna" (Sikozu Johnson <>) suggests, for "key" as
a predicate, that "As with most speech patterns, it is common among
the youthful-ish..."

Well, maybe, but it's certainly not just used by the young. At a book
group last night I caught the presenter using this construction twice
in the course of a short book review (it sounds natural enough to me
that I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed if not for this thread) -- one
instance was "This scene is key;" the other was longer, so I didn't
write it down word for word, but along the lines of "Knowing the
father's background is key if you want to understand why the family
later falls apart." We're a pretty stodgy and middle-aged group; the
presenter was at least 45.

On "X is the winningest coach in the NBA," "the highway-walkingest man
this world can ever see," etc. -- Just in the last year or so I've
noticed lots of my students using "awesomest" in writing as well as in
speech, but no one ever seems to say "awesomer". These superlatives
DO sound odd to me (unlike "key") and "awesomest" at least does seem
limited to the under-25 crowd.

Catherine Rudin
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