It's a beautiful, sunny day in Burbank, and I'm sitting in a broadcasting studio with two of the five Satellite Sisters.
If you're not familiar with this nationally syndicated ABC Radio show, the Satellite Sisters are five real-life sisters who broadcast live from three different locations ? the cleverest way I've heard yet of getting the boss to pay for you to chat long-distance with your sister in Moscow.
The Satellite Sisters are also cool women ? the kind of people I'd like to hang out with if I could figure out a way to say, "Will you be my friends," without sounding like that mousy-haired girl in high school who always wanted to hang out with the cheerleaders. (Note: This is a hypothetical example and anyone who tells you different is a liar ? no matter how many years we went to school together.)
On this sunny Burbank day, I'm talking with only three of the Satellite Sisters ? Lian and Sheila in the studio; Monica on the phone.
Julie and Liz have figured out how to take the day off from being sisters (just as I have when my own sisters have needed baby-sitters or money).
The Satellite Sisters have me in the studio to talk about grammar. And if that's not scary enough, consider this: They're taking live questions from callers. Live grammar questions. And I'm the one they expect to be able to answer them ? live.
But there's a beacon of hope in the middle of the fancy recording studio table ? a shining light to deliver me from fear.
Right there, amid the microphones and wires, is a computer monitor. It's displaying the names of the people who are on hold waiting to ask grammar questions and, even better, the questions themselves.
I see that a listener in Miami wants to know about "drink, drank, drunk," as the producer's shorthand puts it. A listener in the Midwest has a question summed up as "good and well." And another caller is holding to talk about "so fun or so much fun."
I'm prepared to answer any of these, or so I think, but in a divinely guided moment during a commercial break I say to Lian, "'Good and well' is a good one."
"Good and well" thus becomes my last question of the day.
And it's good and well that it is, because when I get home and look up "fun," I learn that I would have been very unwise to open my trap on that one.
I'll spare you what I might have said and cut straight to what should be said.
The reason we say that something was "so much fun" instead of "so fun" is because, traditionally, "fun" has not been an adjective. Just a noun.
Think of a noun such as, say, "gasoline." You can have "so much gasoline," but it would be more than a stretch to say something was "so gasoline."
The traditional usage then, is pretty strict.
It means that you can't use "fun" in a context like, "It was a fun party." Technically, that's no more correct than saying, "It was a gasoline party." (Which, now that I think about it, is just crazy enough to work as an excuse to get out of baby-sitting.)
It's obvious why this strict limitation on "fun" has eroded. There is no handy adjective equivalent for "fun."
Sure, you could say "an entertaining party," "an amusing party" or "a fun-inducing party," but nothing captures it like forcing the noun to act as an adjective ? something we do in English all the time. Think "Super Bowl party," "ice cream party," "pizza party" and "pity party."
So "fun" weaseled its way into the dictionary as an adjective, but only an informal one.
And one, the authorities agree, that has no comparative or superlative forms. In other words, there is no "funner" or "funnest." There is only fun.
And that's exactly what I got from my half-hour with the Satellite Sisters.