Correcting Grammar is the Funnest Job

by Robert Pondiscio
April 28th, 2009

Do my ears deceive me?  Did Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs actually say on national television – on Meet the Press, no less – “this is the funnest, most rewarding job that I’ve ever had and it may well be the funnest and most rewarding job that I ever have.”

Funnest?  The man who speaks for the President, who speaks for the United States of America, said “funnest?”  Twice??

If Mr. Gibbs and I go out to breakfast, we might have fun.  We also might have pancakes.  Fun and pancakes are both nouns.  If our breakfast cannot be the pancakiest meal we ever had, then how could it be the funnest?

Some will argue that “fun” has gained traction as an adjective, as in “That was a fun breakfast.”  But if you want to be a stickler about it (and having gone this far down the path, why not go the rest of the way?), “fun” used to describe the breakfast is not an adjective, but an attributive noun.  Here’s a great explanation from the blog Grammar Girl:

In the phrase “sugar cookie,” “sugar” is a noun, but it’s being used in an attributive way to describe the cookie. Attributive nouns do exactly the same thing as adjectives. You could say, “I ate a sugar cookie” or “I ate a yummy cookie.” The sentences are constructed the same way, but “sugar” is an attributive noun and “yummy” is an adjective.

No adjective?  Then no comparative (funner) and no superlative (funnest).

Your job may be the most fun you’ve ever had, Mr. Gibbs, but it’s not the funnest.

New NAEP Numbers

by Robert Pondiscio
April 28th, 2009

NAEP long-term trend numbers are out.  Headlines and links:

Improvements seen in reading and mathematics

Black students make greater gains from early 1970s than White students

Most racial/ethnic score gaps narrow compared to first assessment

For students whose parents did not finish high school, mathematics scores increase compared to 1978

Percentages of students taking higher-level mathematics increasing

USA Today’s Greg Toppo highlights sharp increases in math and reading among many of the nation’s lowest-performing students. especially in the past four years, but notes “the stubborn, decades-long achievement gap between white and minority students shrank between the 1970s and the first part of this decade, but has barely budged since 2002, when the federal government compelled public schools to address it through No Child Left Behind (NCLB).” 

Over at Curriculum Matters, Mary Ann Zehr notes average scores have remained flat for 17-year-olds both in reading and math since the early 1970s.  “The scores for 17-year-olds in reading, however, did increase by three points, to 286, from 2004 to 2008, which is considered significant. But the same was not true for 17-year-olds in math. The scores remained stagnant for that age group in math during that same period,” she notes.