Ahh, the English language. Effortless when you’re chatting with your mates, a royal pain in the ass when you want to be technically correct.
All the rules and idiosyncrasies are enough to drive you mad. Heck, I’ve probably made a dozen mistake in the first two sentences alone.
Even still, there are countless rules in the English language that we abide by in blissful ignorance – one of them recently went viral on Twitter after catching everyone by surprise.
This particular rule is concerned with where we place adjectives ahead of a noun in a sentence. “Big dog” is simple enough, but what if I want to describe it as smelly and Australian as well?
The correct way to order adjectives before a noun is as follows:
Opinion – size – age – shape – colour – origin – material – purpose – noun
If you didn’t know that, congratulations – neither did anyone else!
That was until journalist Matthew Anderson discovered the rule in The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase, a fascinating book written by Mark Forsyth, and decided to share it on Twitter.
It didn’t take long for it to go viral.
Things native English speakers know, but don't know we know: pic.twitter.com/Ex0Ui9oBSL
— Matthew Anderson (@MattAndersonNYT) September 3, 2016
Not convinced? Let’s fiddle around with the phrase provided and see what happens:
I love eating food with my green French old little lovely silver rectangular whittling knife.
Yep, I completely butchered it.
One Twitter user has a pretty decent theory as to why we all follow this rule without realising it:
I would venture a guess that children's books, songs and rhymes play a big part why you know this intuitively.
— Johanna Kivistö (@cresentum) September 18, 2017
That said, we could probably broaden that attribution to the general process of growing up with the language.
If you were one of the few people who knew of this rule’s existence: don’t spoil the fun, you jerk.