Adjective Order

rogersgeorge on September 29th, 2016

Adjective order has become a meme recently, and I finally found a good enough example to share the idea with you. Native speakers of English tend to put multiple adjectives in a certain order without realizing that they’re following a pattern. Here’s the rule: When you apply more than one adjective to a noun, they should go in order according to these categories. I’ve seen several versions of this; this one is based on a couple lists I happened to google a few minutes ago:

Article, Quantity, Value/opinion, Size, Physical Quality, Temperature, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Type, Purpose

Most of them (that I’ve seen) don’t include quantity (I added it myself to the list I have on my wall) and none I’ve seen include the article (a, an, the) as the first item. This order is not ironclad, especially if you want to emphasize one of the adjectives.

Now for a test. Brooke McEldowney is one of the most erudite comic strip writer-artists that I know of, and though I generally avoid politics on this site, this Pibgorn comic is too good an example of multiple adjectives to pass up. The nouns I’m interested in are buss, war, gears, osculations, and interlocutor.

The test is to look at the adjectives that precede these nouns and determine whether he follows the order in the list or not. Have fun!



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A fine point of grammar in a comic

rogersgeorge on March 19th, 2012

I have posted selections from the works of Brooke McEldowney before, and I probably will in the future. The fellow is a master of the English language, music, drawing, and complicated plots. This time he touches upon interactions with editors and how to use “awhile” and “a while” correctly; inadvertently giving me an easy post, for which I thank him by encouraging all of you to check out his comics, 9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn. They are really quite good.

As you like

rogersgeorge on March 9th, 2012

(My apologies to Shakespeare for the title of this post; at least it’s grammatical.) I had planned another serious lesson for today, but this comic popped up. It mentions a grammatical issue I’ve been wanting to mention for a long time, correct use of “like” and “as.”

It’s not hard, really. We use both words for comparisons. Remember that “like” is a preposition, so it goes with nouns and pronouns. The trick is that with “as,” which is an adverb, we often leave out the verb, and all you see is a nearby noun. Perhaps you remember the book Black Like Me. The grammar of the title is correct. If you wanted “as” in that phrase, you’d have to say “Black as I.” Where’s the verb? It’s implied. You’re really saying “Black as I am.”

So maybe this is part of  The Hard Part of Writing—you have to think about what you’re writing. Are you comparing a noun or a verb? Test by seeing if you can insert a verb into your sentence.

All that to get to the comic:

Seth might be a hunk, but he knows his grammar

Regular readers of this site might recall that I am a fan of  Brooke McEldowney, who writes and draws two erudite comics. The one above is 9 Chickweed Lane, and the other is Pibgorn. I recommend them both.

Hundredth Post

rogersgeorge on November 26th, 2011

We interrupt the scintillating discussion of grammatical case to celebrate writing on the hundredth post of this humble site. This post contains a sample of some marvelous writing.

Brooke McEldowney studied viola at the Julliard. He is also a cartoonist par excellence. He writes two strips, 9 Chickweed Lane, about a ballerina and her family and others, and Pibgorn, about a fairy and some other natural and non-natural people. Those descriptions do not begin to do justice to the long, complex, original, erudite, and enjoyable plot lines you will find in each comic, nor the interesting personalities he has created. I recommend you read them. Both are available on GoComics.

I’m not showing a picture in this post because I want you to go read the comic. The sample of writing below is part of what appears below the panel several days into a recently-begun story in Pibgorn titled Mozart and the Demon Lover. (The link goes to the first panel in the story.)

… Glancing one recent day at an online reference site that purports to be encyclopedic, I looked at this very cartoon on its Pibgorn entry. Originally, when the cartoon appeared on that page, the attached caption stated that it was a moment at the beginning of a Pibgorn story, showing the three principal characters. However, my recent fly-by screeched to a halt because the caption had changed. It now stated that they were discussing “the sexualization of music” (whatever that means).

I wrote to someone at the site in order to inform them that the caption was balderdash. A response arrived in due course, dispensing the effluvia that I cannot be a reliable source of information about my own writing because I am too close to it, have too much of a vested interest in it.

I informed the writer that the entire thrust of the first three panels derived from a New York Times music review in the 1980s by Harold Schonberg, in which he asserted that simply performing Mozart was not an adequate practice; that performers had to “sell” Mozart. When I wrote the dialogue to this cartoon, I was reflecting on Mr. Schonberg’s review. At no point during the composition of the panel, or since, have I ever entertained the mystifying codswallop that one can sexualize music (without the assistance of Gypsy Rose Lee, I mean).

The idea that the creator/writer/limner cannot be a reliable source of information on his own work because he is too close to it – that only tertiary sources of canards and crackpottery can be regarded as reliable – proceeds from an arrogance that beggars description. It could kindly be dismissed as moonshine, except that, whence it issues, the moon don’t shine.

Marvelous! Wonderful vocabulary. (Look up the words you don’t know.) Perfect grammar. Syntax at once clean and complex. This is the highest of high dudgeon. I love it.