The Grumpy Grammarian

Make Summer Funner - How A Made-Up Word Increased Target’s Revenue By $5.3 million

This lovely little campaign from a few years ago was for Summer at Target and featured eye-popping in-store marketing and larger-than-life events with oversized summer objects.

Grammatically speaking, it’s an F. Because Funner is NOT a word, right?

(Sure. And unicorn poop cotton candy at the grocery store and mermaid corpses at Ripley’s museum are just figment of my imagination. Wait a minute…)

This grammar rule has to do with adjective formation and suffixes. And the confusion comes from the fact that the word “fun” was not originally an adjective. Until the early 19th century, it was mostly just a noun, and it gained its meaning as “amusement” in the 18th century. But as early as the 1800s, people began using it as an adjective, the way we’d describe “a fun time” or “a fun place” today.

On top of this disaster sundae (like a rotten cherry) is the spoiled mentality of “Fine, you can use ‘fun’ as an adjective…but, like, it’s not really one, so it can’t follow the rules of real adjectives.” And somehow, some way, thanks to the weird machinations of language, that mentality helped popularize “more fun” and “most fun” in favor of “funner” and “funnest.”

Here’s your takeaway from all that nonsense — This grammar rule is based on a popularity contest. It’s not a real rule. It’s just popular opinion.

So based on popular opinion, the Target campaign should be “Make Summer More Fun.” But it’s bland. It doesn’t follow the Rule of Three. And it’s not concise.

Just how successful was this campaign with a grammar mistake?

Well, Target’s revenue increased from $15.9 million at the end of April 2011 to $21.2 million at the end of January 2012.

And that’s not popular opinion. That’s a financial fact more serious than talk of cryptids and candy.