Things We Don't Know We Know?


Many of you probably saw Matthew Anderson's Twitter post circling around bbc, twitter, tumblr, pinterest - anything and everything. If not though, here is the BBC article regarding it - link.

“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.”

He raised multiple good points on things that native english speakers know, but don't know they know. I for one was tought this rule - I'm not a native speaker - but still when I came across this post I was amazed at how I haven't thought of it in years! While writing I don't think of this rule since when getting the order wrong, it just sounds horrible.

Green great dragons? Nope.


Then he raises another rule with a bridge from the previous one.
There are some exceptions to the previous order rule like: Big Bad Wolf. But apparently not, since it follows another rule: the rule of reduplications.

Reduplication in linguistics is when you repeat a word, sometimes with an altered consonant (lovey-dovey, fuddy-duddy, nitty-gritty), and sometimes with an altered vowel: bish-bash-bosh, ding-dang-dong. If there are three words then the order has to go I, A, O.


Then he goes to the tenses. Daunting to starters, natural to natives. To start of do you know what the future present is? Exactly. Daunting.

There are so many tenses you can use without even thinking about it, and almost certainly without being able to name them. It depends how you count them, but there are about 20 that you deploy faultlessly. The pluperfect progressive passive for an extended state of action that happened to you prior to another action in the past is, when you put it like that, rather daunting. But then you’d happily say “I realised I’d been being watched” without breaking sweat or blinking.

Another thing the author mentions is the rules of stress... I'll let you read more on that from the article.


I remember two poems we read in class five years back and thought they would be a great addition to this post - on the daunting prospect of english as a language.

Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners
De Chaos
by Gerard Nolst Trenité

(both can be found here)
So try reading them outloud. There are also videos on YouTube to check how you did.


Also to get a grasp on the fascination of intuition in regards to the english language check out this link I was sent: http://english.printexpress.co.uk/  to test out how well you can do with the order of adjectives.

Read on lovelies,

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