The Natural Order

A fat fluffy red fox jogged briskly across my backyard this morning, halfway between the house and the lake. Patches and I were sitting on the deck enjoying a cup of coffee, when the fox caught the two of us off guard.

We watched avidly as Mr. Fox scurried down into the forest, and continued watching long after he was out of sight. Patches’s tail whipped back and forth as she followed his every move; whereas, mine remained static. My tail doesn’t often whip these days, even when I’m agitated or excited. One of those unfortunate cases of “use it or lose it” I’m afraid.

Eventually I had to refill my coffee, so I left Patches on guard where she remains as I write this:

No fox is getting past her. Nosirree! Unless of course someone offers her a treat, then all guard duties will be abandoned for the sake of a catnip flavored nibble.

Now, to the point. This little essay began with the words, “A fat fluffy red fox….” The order of the words rolled off the tips of my fingers and onto the screen. Could I have also typed, “a red fat fluffy fox” or a “fluffy red fat fox?” Sure. But why did my initial word choice feel the most correct to me? We tend to say, “clear blue sky” instead of “blue clear sky,” and Patches would be a “cute black and white cat,” and not a “black and white cute cat”; although, she most definitely remains black and white and undeniably cute.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has pondered this ordering of adjectives. When I googled it I found this interesting article.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj-2dXV_8LgAhVNhOAKHSqbB6sQzPwBegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2Fnews%2Fblogs-trending-37285796&psig=AOvVaw0merRecZG_17DUM74VQjSX&ust=1550500785616506

Isn’t English wonderful? It’s also often confusing and in some ways, limiting, but it’s always interesting. And some folks can still get away with using adjectives in the wrong order. I’ll leave you with another fox, George Strait, and his rule bending song, “Blue Clear Sky.” How I’d love to see him in my backyard.

https://youtu.be/JLh5Y9PRFSc

Peace, people.

Author: nananoyz

I'm a semi-retired crazy person with one husband and two cats.

6 thoughts on “The Natural Order”

  1. I found this post to be absolutely fascinating, Leslie. I went down the rabbit hole after following your link and found other examples and explanations for the phenomena of ablaut reduplication. What fun!!! (I had never heard of this ‘rule’ and I have a masters degree in English!). I will definitely be playing around with breaking this rule!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s telling that when I went back to edit this piece before publishing that I’d subconsciously typed “Clear Blue Sky” as the title of the George Strait song, instead of “Blue Clear Sky.” It just feels so wrong to flip those words.

      Liked by 2 people

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