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On online boards I've seen some people claim that "stupider" is ungrammatical. I can't see any reason why it would be, and it seems like it's commonly used.

Google Ngram Viewer

And it's also in online dictionaries...

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/stupider

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stupider

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/stupider

So what's the opinion here?

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related (I had a similar kind of question) english.stackexchange.com/questions/145683/… Stupid-->*stupider* is included in the list of disyllable words that can take the -er comparative form. –  Mari-Lou A Apr 24 at 20:31
    
Stupid, stupider, stupidest. Seems grammatical to me. It also reminds me of my kids when they were young and used taunts like Girls go to Mars to get candy bars; boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider! (the slightly more adult version is girls go to college to get more knowledge...) OT, I think people use dumber more often than stupider. –  medica Apr 24 at 21:54
    
Stupider doesn't sound like a "real" word, but it does make perfect sense to use it. –  delete this account Apr 25 at 1:21
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7 Answers 7

up vote 24 down vote accepted

It's not really a question of opinion. Stupider is, as the dictionaries and usage you quote show, entirely grammatical. It is also in rather common use, though less common than more stupid.

The main issue here is that words of more than one syllable tend to resist the -er suffix. Wiktionary's entry on the -er suffix says this (emphasis mine):

The suffixes -er and -est may be used to form the comparative and superlative of most adjectives and adverbs that have one syllable and some that have two syllables.

I believe that people's aversion to this word stems from the belief that "-er is usually used for monosyllabic words" is a rule, rather than a guideline (or, more correctly, an observation). This tendency probably has phonological roots related to stressed/unstressed final syllables interacting with the suffix, but I really don't know enough to say.

If a word has a meaning everyone can agree on, appears in dictionaries and is in use for centuries, this means it is a word!. It might be a word with social connotations of "improper speech" or "bad grammar", but a word nonetheless.

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I don't think people's aversion has anything to do with a belief in a supposed rule; I think it is that the -er and -est endings for comparative and superlative adjectives come from Anglo-Saxon, and AS root words tend to be shorter than Latinate words (on average). Thus, the -er and -est endings fit shorter words better, to a native speaker's ear. –  David Conrad Apr 25 at 19:36
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"Stupider," like "ain't," is often thought to be not a word. It has all the things you would expect of a word. It has a meaning we can all agree on. It appears in dictionaries (so you can find out what it means if you don't know). But it isn't given the recognition of a word, even by many people who use it.

This is a cultural phenomenon, and it's best in most contexts to avoid using these non-words. The problem is that with most of the English-speaking world raised to believe that "stupider" is not a word, you will appear to them to be more stupid if you use it. In short, the word "stupider" carries a stigma. Nothing is inherently wrong with it.

The irony is that some of these non-words have been in use for centuries, while "to google" is already an accepted verb, even with its short history.

edit: apparently my irony was unclear in the first sentence, so I added "often thought to be"

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You appear not to understand what a word is. –  tchrist Apr 24 at 20:23
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I said stupider was a word that was stigmatized. Are you disagreeing with that? –  frances Apr 24 at 20:24
    
Your first sentence is false. –  tchrist Apr 24 at 20:25
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@frances - and did a good job, too. +1 –  medica Apr 24 at 21:58
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Oh. Good point. By adding the "often thought to be" and not removing the quotes around "not a word," it looks rather like a double-negative construction. I took your suggestion and removed the quotes. –  frances Apr 25 at 15:07
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It's a valid word and, as you say, not even that unusual.

It seems, on this issue at least, you are cleverer than them. They are stupider.

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At any rate better-informed. –  Steve Jessop Apr 25 at 12:44
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While OED doesn't list stupider it does contain a citation for the superlative:

1842 S. Lover Handy Andy xliii, She felt the pique which every pretty woman experiences who fancies her favours disregarded, and thought Andy the stupidest lout she ever came across.

So it might be assumed that stupider was in use in the early nineteenth century as stupidest was.

An Ngram confirms this, but it also shows that stupider is the least popular comparator. Perhaps suprisingly, even though -est is usually confined to monosyllabic roots, stupidest has outranked most stupid in British English since around 1870.

(The difference between American English and British English is a little surprising.)

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Shoulnd’t that be the less popular comparators? After all, there are only two. –  tchrist Apr 24 at 22:04
    
Possibly. I was using the term loosely to include the superlative as [the result of] a comparison. If there's a better word than comparator, I'm happy to learn! –  Andrew Leach Apr 24 at 22:09
    
Doesn't "more stupid" get false N-gram hits from phrases such as "there are more stupid people in Congress than I care to count"? I'm not saying stupider isn't less common, just that an N-gram count doesn't prove it so. That said, Google has no N-gram hits for "fewer stupid", which at least hints that such constructions aren't flooding the market. –  Steve Jessop Apr 25 at 12:45
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Lots of people (native speakers) use 'stupider' under informal circumstances. So in some sense it is perfectly grammatical.

But culturally it is considered too informal and by many to be just plain 'incorrect' (as a value judgement). So you don't want to use it in a school paper or newspaper or journal article. You may not want to use it with other people in speech because they might consider the word uneducated just like "ain't".

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Oh come on, can you really imagine somebody saying “That’s the most stupid thing I’ve heard” instead of “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard”? I sure can’t. –  tchrist Apr 24 at 22:02
    
I hadn't thought about ' stupidest'. I find that both stupidest and most stupid work for me. As to the question about 'stupider' at hand, more stupid sounds much 'better' than more stupid, and stupider sounds very informal. It would be wrong to tell the OP that 'stupider' works in all situations. –  Mitch Apr 24 at 22:31
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The ratio of Google hits for "the stupidest thing I've ever heard" to those for "the most stupid thing I've ever heard" being 719 000 : 347 000, I really can imagine somebody using the latter. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 24 at 22:45
    
@tchrist - Actually, I can. But there's no reason that both can't exist so you can choose the one you like. –  Oldcat Apr 24 at 23:50
    
Google hit estimates aren't reliable corpus data. And anyway, when I search Google for the most stupid variant, my results give the estimate 8560 rather than 347,000. For what it's worth, in COCA the results for stupidest and most stupid are 187 and 42 respectively, whereas for stupider and more stupid I find 73 and 56 results. (Looking through the COCA results could help you decide whether you think stupider should be considered standard.) –  snailboat Apr 25 at 15:05
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As with stupidity its either you have it or don't, there are only two variables. You have to say "more stupid" as it would be a comparison of two stupid subjects but individually they are both stupid.

It's like the controversy of that someone is tall or short, its always a comparison never exclusive.

Hope that helped.

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"A is (Xer|more X) than B" doesn't imply the Xness of B. –  cHao Apr 25 at 3:54
    
@cHao It does, a little, sometimes. It seems absurd to say that Niels Bohr was stupider than Albert Einstein, or the other way around. –  Tony Apr 25 at 15:08
    
@Tony: It doesn't seem at all absurd to say that most people are stupider than Albert Einstein, though...which doesn't imply that Einstein was stupid. That's my point. –  cHao Apr 25 at 22:31
    
@cHao Huh. To me it does sound a little absurd, something like "my grocery store is shorter than the Sears Tower". There's room for more than one opinion, though. –  Tony Apr 26 at 1:54
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As each year passes so the English language changes.

To an Englishman there is no such word as 'stupider'. It is not in the OED. He would say 'A is more stupid than B'. It is an invention from somewhere (probably the US) that has it seems has got into common usage there.

If you want to speak nice English then forget 'stupider'. It's a horrible little word.

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“It is an invention from somewhere (probably the US)” It is indubitably an invention from somewhere, unless you think that the English language was a divine creation. But why the US? It is also used in Britain, by such authors as Byron and Austen. –  Gilles Apr 25 at 9:36
    
That is a stupid observation! I don't speak like Byron or like Austen. Much of their expression is outdated and no longer used. I mentioned the US as the source of much of the 'new' English usage. –  user2256790 Apr 25 at 11:22
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My point is that Byron and Austen used it and they were British, so this doesn't look like a US invention. By your argument, it's more stupid that should be considered a modern British invention (but it isn't either). –  Gilles Apr 25 at 11:25
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You seem to be suggesting that all Englishmen use only words that are in the OED. A moment's worth of real-world listening should disabuse you of the notion. –  Tony Apr 25 at 15:06
    
@Gilles: +1 for the Byron quote. Apparently there are not so many rhymes for "Jupiter" in English. Now the question: was "Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider" inspired by Byron, or is it the other way around? –  Nate Eldredge Apr 25 at 18:52
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