A great joy of the English language is its endless capacity to delight and surprise. Yesterday, for example, my colleague Tom Chivers introduced me to the hierarchy of adjectives. This is the rule that descriptions tend to go opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose: for example, “a lovely little Seventies Bakelite radio” or “a hideous new green crinoline dress”. Put any of the words in the wrong order, and the meaning breaks down. Thus, Ken Livingstone can be a ghastly old socialist relic, but “socialist old ghastly relic” sounds off.
Monday, May 21, 2012
The hierarchy of adjectives
Robert Colville writes in the Daily Telegraph: