There’s fun in words


Literally. You can find fun in words. Like fungus. Maybe you know a guy, and he is fun, so you say he is a fun guy. And if his name is Gus, maybe you say he is one fun Gus.

As you know if you know what’s good for you, fungi rhymes with fun guy. Every time someone uses the other pronunciation that rhymes with fun jai, a dung beetle dies. And do you really want to live in a world without dung beetles? No, because once they are gone, we are in deep doo-doo.


We eat fungi, which are both tasty and sometimes deadly. Fungi live on us and sometimes invade our toes.

Fun Guy: George, you’ve got some fungosity    going there on your toes.
George: You nailed it, Fun Guy. You’ve got onegood eye.


You also might have made a go of something fun like bowling blindfolded. Then you could say you made a fun go of it. And if you talked quickly, squeezing those last seven words together because you heard a loud yell after you threw the bowling ball, you would say you made a fungo of it, and it would be true. Or almost true if your bowling ball was just struck by someone’s foot three lanes over, because fungo is baseball talk for striking a ball thrown up in the air. And that means one of two things: you shouldn’t bowl blindfolded no matter how fun it is, or you need to work on your hook.



The term fungo snuck into the baseball lexicon sometime in the 1880s, probably by climbing over the fence to watch the game. No one knows for sure, except for those people who think they know for sure. Like so many English nouns it has a second career as a verb. So, a person can fungo during practice, or have a coach who thinks fungoing is essential, which in my book is a fungoing coach.

If you think there’s a lot of fun in blindfolded bowling (and frankly, who doesn’t?), you probably think that there’s just as much of it in funambulism, aka tightrope walking. If etymology were done correctly, that fun in funambulism would derive from the word fun, or amusement. We would be left with a fun kind of ambulating, which is a four-syllable way of talking about simple two-syllable walking. However, the Romans lacked the kind of etymological skills that would truly benefit posterity because they spent too much time conquering and slaughtering barbarians to develop much of a sense of humor. In addition, they appeared too early in history to even know about the word fun. This is often true of people who show up too early at a party and then leave before the real party begins.


Courtesy of Philip Bitnar



In what has to be the worst instance of word origin I’ve run across today, they borrowed that first syllable in funambulism from funis, Latin for rope. In one fell swoop, they cut the rope under my feet, so that instead of enjoying the fun of walking 50 stories high on a thin rope connected to two buildings on a windy day in the Windy City, I’m left trying to walk across a rope. Etymology is such a heartbreaker.


If I had more time, and trust me, you are going to be glad I don’t, I could write a ditty, a simple song, about etymology’s betrayals. Of course I would have to make it fun. I’m a positive person and very pro fun, so I would call it a profundity, but I don’t think anyone else would agree.





28 thoughts on “There’s fun in words

  1. That was delightful. I do love wordplay and the origins of words.

    We all get treated like fungi sometimes, kept in the dark, heaped with fertilizer. People who do this should beware, amazing things grow in the dark recesses of people’s minds.

    So nice to hear somebody mention climbing over the fence to watch baseball. I have some fond memories of doing just that but it wasn’t the 1880’s, it was the 1980’s. We called it cheapskate hill. Alas, when too many people started watching baseball from the hill, they went and built condos.

  2. I don’t know why there isn’t already a book on the shelves written by you, (the fun gal), in which you take the English language for a rollicking spin around the dance floor. You could call it The Fundamentals of the English Language. 🙂

  3. I would love to find your ditty too. Though I have to admit there were more than a few things I didn’t understand in this post. But when you brought out the fun in profundity, you made my day. Always such a pleasure to read what’s on your mind… or between your toes, for that matter.

  4. It’s just as well you didn’t go on too much longer here, or I’m pretty sure I’d have gotten whiplash eventually. Funderful! Hysterical. Which latter word, by the way, has another kind of weird etymology, in my opinion.

    My sisters and I still treasure the image of fungi that were sneaking, by implication, into the girls’ underwear sold in a past decade as FunGal Underpants until (presumably) someone in the advertising department copped a clue that it was not perhaps the most fortuitous choice for positive marketing purposes. Ha!


  5. Tonight, I wrote the word, ‘gobsmacked’ in a post. It is the reason I came over to your neck of the woods to catch up on some reading. Gobsmacked is just an amazing word…say it a few times; you’ll know what I mean. Thanks for being one of my three loyal readers.

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