A whole nother and so fun

For years and years I always used the phrase ‘a whole nother’. I felt like my little sister must be from a whole nother planet (just kidding–I love you, Pretty!). I wanted a whole nother piece of key lime pie.

It wasn’t until I decided to write it down one day that I realized that ‘nother’ is not actually a word. It looked funny. I’d never seen it in a book (my ultimate judge on whether a word exists or not). And I was so sad… this incredible word wasn’t actually a word.

There’s a term for it–infixation.

And, to my utter delight, apparently there is an entire blog devoted to finding people using ‘a whole nother’. Rally behind me, everyone! Let’s use the phrase until all but the most strict of grammarians will have to accept it as proper English.

Moving onto grammar that I am less excited about: the term ‘so fun’.

Now, my mother practically beat it into us that saying that something was ‘so fun’ is wholly inappropriate. I can hear her now, “It is SUCH FUN or SO MUCH FUN. There is no such thing as so fun.”

A few years ago, this led to a fight with my husband (yep, I think it was an out-and-out fight!). He was certain that ‘so fun’ was actually correct, and I didn’t have any grammar rules to back up my side except to say, “But my mom is from ENGLAND! She KNOWS!”… which, although true, was perhaps less than convincing.

However, and I give my dh credit for this, he looked it up and discovered that using ‘so fun’ is, in fact, incorrect. The grammar behind it: the word ‘fun’ is not an adjective. ‘So’ is an adverb–and adverbs can only modify other adverbs and adjectives. Thus, ‘so’ cannot modify ‘fun’.

(To present the opposing point of view, my dh would say that common usage of the word ‘fun’ as an adjective (‘What a fun game!’) makes usage of ‘so fun’ acceptable. However, while I don’t mind a fun game, I just can’t tolerate it being ‘so fun’. It’s like nails on chalkboard.)

Don’t you feel smarter? Did you think when you came to read a blog that you’d leave enlightened (and chagrined at the thought of how often you’ve used either ‘a whole nother’ or ‘so fun’ without even thinking about the grammar implications)? You’re very welcome. 😀

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7 responses to “A whole nother and so fun

  1. An infix is bound morpheme like a suffix or prefix, but it goes inside the word instead of at the beginning or the end. It sounds weird to most English-speakers because formal Enhlish does not have infixes.

    Tagalog (one of the mian Phillipine languages) along with some other south Pacific languages does have infixes though, as part of the formal grammar.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infix

    But when we say a-whole-nother, we’re using “whole” as an infix, which is not formal English, but it’s certainly a part of the vernacular.

  2. I can relate to your sadness over ‘whole nother’ and your crusade it normalize it.

    For a long time I thought, “Smorning” was a word. Like, “This smorning, I went to the library.” Actually for a long while I thought it would be written this way, “The smorning.”

    And then it dawned on me that it was really “this morning.” And I was very sad indeed.

    Granted yours is a usable phrase and not just a mishearing, but still…

  3. Sure “fun” is an adjective.

    http://www.bartleby.com/61/11/F0361100.html

    “The use of fun as an attributive adjective, as in a fun time, a fun place, probably originated in a playful reanalysis of the use of the word in sentences such as It is fun to ski, where fun has the syntactic function of adjectives such as amusing or enjoyable. The usage became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, though there is some evidence to suggest that it has 19th-century antecedents, but it can still raise eyebrows among traditionalists. The day may come when this usage is entirely unremarkable, but writers may want to avoid it in more formal contexts.”

  4. Ah, yes, through common usage the word ‘fun’ is treated as an adjective. (And I will easily admit to having a fun time lol!)

    Traditionally, though, it is not considered an adjective. And so proper English is to avoid using the word fun as an adjective.

    For me, really, the issue is that my mother made sure that we knew that it could not be ‘so fun’… and so it can’t be. It’s like nails on chalkboard for me. 🙂

  5. Thank you for this piece…my mother has been telling me the same thing (about “so fun”) for years, and I absolutely can’t stand it. I even just heard it on a commercial for a kids toy — it looks like theres not much we can do about it now.

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