Revisiting some old holiday photos, I found this neat sign from a funfair:
Language Log is discussing what the rules are for how we form the comparative and superlative of adjectives, or, I should say, which adjectives use the inflectional -er and -est, and which use the periphrastic “more”. Grammar books do explain this, and so do various internet sites, although some of the latter have rather dubious explanations. But Professor Zwicky is more interested in those adjectives where there is a dispute. A typical example is “tired”. I find it unremarkable to use the word “tireder”, but many people complain that it’s wrong, and many people who use it worry that they’re making a mistake.
My point of view is that, no matter what the idiomatic form is (and, clearly, people learning English need to learn idiomatic English), no-one should be criticised for making a comparative or superlative “mistake”. After all, it’s not as if the hearer or reader does not understand the meaning of “more nice” or “beautifuller”.
What about “more nicer”? Well, I baulk a little at it, just as I do at double negatives, but it’s common enough in slang parlance, and, again, it’s not at all ambiguous.
In response to Prof. Zwicky’s request, I’ve googled a few disputed inflectionals, as follows:
– You have a mind that is closeder than anything I can recall
– By the way, closeder is not a word
Non-native speakers discuss whether it’s possible to say “fuller”: http://bit.ly/4mTpD1
Moderner Warfare – Is moderner even a real word
moderner…(woah, moderner is a word? Ok, spellchecker, if you say so..