Tuesday, 20 June 2017

elements of eloquence

Language Barrier reacquaints us with the unwritten guidelines of style that native English speakers follow without thinking and the exceptions that make the rule.
Adjectives need to be presented in the following order, lest they ring dissonant, according to author Mark Forsyth: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose plus the noun or gerund being modified.  For example, one can plan for a sturdy great old crooked black English umbrella—whereas shifting any of those attributes around would make one sound rather unnatural. Those outliers, like Big Bad Wolf (size preceding opinion), can be explained by another unconscious rule—that of ablautive reduplication that mandates alternating vowel sounds go from i to a or o (for the sake of economy) and not the other way around: flip-flop, tick-tock and so forth. Ding dang dong.