Things we know but don’t know we know

I came across this ages ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. Apart from the actually remembering the order of the words bit.

Which is kind of important. But I guess I could work it out because, after all, it’s something we know but don’t know we know until we do it.

It’s from this passage from The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth about how to order adjectives:

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.

Look! I’ve written it out.

Oh, alright, I’ve copied and pasted it. I’m going to write it out now:

  1. Opinion
  2. Size
  3. Age
  4. Shape
  5. Colour
  6. Origin
  7. Material
  8. Purpose
  9. Noun

Or OSASCOMPN for short.

 

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

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