The Way We Speak – Why we use Adjectives in a certain way
a hidden blueprint when it comes to ordering our descriptions
In our article entitled ‘Why do we say Ping-Pong not Pong-Ping? we looked at an ancient protocol that we follow entirely unconsciously -‘ablaut reduplication‘.
There is another rule we all seem to follow unconsciously to do with English adjective order.
This “rule we didn’t know we knew” would have remained unknown to most of us had the writer Mark Forsyth not pointed out a hidden (and apparently arbitrary) blueprint when it comes to ordering our descriptions.
The rule is [opinion – size – age – shape – colour – origin – material – purpose].
Thus you will never have a green great dragon, or a young small girl admiring her red shiny new shoes in the marble long old mirror.
Exceptions to this order are rare, though among them is the ‘big bad wolf’, which happens to observe the rule of ablaut reduplication.
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