A leading principle in learning grammar is that there are no stupid questions. However, there can be questions about the word stupid.
That brings us to the topic of today’s post: Is stupider really a word? Or would it be better grammar to say more stupid?
Neither is very polite, and the answers might surprise you.
The Smart Answer to the Stupider Question
As surprising as it might be to some, stupider is actually a proper word. Many people will claim it’s incorrect and prefer the term more stupid, but either is valid.
To understand why this is, there are a couple of things to know.
First, lots of short, one-syllable words get -er endings to indicate a greater degree or quantity (also known as comparative language). For instance, big becomes bigger, short becomes shorter, thin becomes thinner, and so on.
Longer, three-syllable comparative words are generally treated differently. Instead of -er endings, they are prefaced by “more” when a difference of degree is noted. That’s why we write more coordinated instead of coordinateder or more musical rather than musicaler. Aside from being difficult to speak, the wrong versions of these words would grind a sentence to a halt.
Two-syllable comparative words can fall under both categories. Tidy can become tidier, for instance, but careful is formed as more careful. Some words, such as stupid, can be used either way.
There are exceptions to these guidelines, of course, and explaining the nuances would require a further look into linguistics. For the sake of simplicity here, we will simply point out that this is a case where grammar follows speech patterns. It’s simply easier to say that something is prettier than it is to describe it as more pretty; more dangerous is easier to hear and understand than dangerouser.
One More Not-So-Stupid Detail
While we are on the subject, it’s worth pointing out that when writing or speaking comparatively, it’s also acceptable to use either stupidest or most stupid. That should make sense, given what you know about the other comparative qualities of the word.
So, while it might not be very nice to refer to something as stupid, you are well within your grammatical rights to refer to it as stupider, more stupid, most stupid, or even the stupidest.
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