A Surprising Grammar Rule

A Surprising Grammar Rule

File this under “The Dorkiest Post in Cup of Jo History,” but I thought you guys might find this grammar rule interesting.

Jason Kottke read in The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth:

“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”

It’s funny, we all know this rule, but we never realized we knew it.

Here are a few examples:
A beautiful red dress. (A red beautiful dress.)
A square wooden table. (A wooden square table.)
A wooden rocking chair. (A rocking wooden chair.)
A sweet four-year-old Canadian boy. (A Canadian four-year-old sweet boy.)

My only question: Do size and opinion sometimes flip? Because you’d say, a “charming little house” (opinion-size), but then you’d say, “a big friendly dog” (size-opinion).

Thoughts? Nerds!

P.S. Good grammar is sexy, and a grammar rule I didn’t know.

(Via Kottke.)