Posted by: Jack Henry | February 15, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Your Clock is Not Tock-Ticking

Good morning, sunshine!

Kara has previously written about the order of adjectives—a rule most native English speakers aren’t even aware of, but we follow it, nonetheless. This rule specifies the order we put our adjectives in (if we are using more than one adjective in a row). Here is the order we unknowingly follow:

  1. Quantity or number
  2. Quality or opinion
  3. Size
  4. Age
  5. Shape
  6. Color
  7. Proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material)
  8. Purpose or qualifier

Kara gave us this example: My sister adopted a beautiful big white bulldog.

Well, hold on to your hats! Amanda C. recently sent me an article about another rule we know without knowing. This rule explains why “tock-tick,” “dong-ding,” and “flop-flip” don’t sound right to our ears. It turns out that the vowel sounds have to go in a particular order. If there are three words, the order of the vowels is I, A, O. If there are only two words, they follow the same order, starting with I if there is one, and then moving on to A and O, in that order.

So, you can have a sing-song but never a song-sing. Your horse can go clip-clop but not clop-clip. You cannot listen to hop-hip. You cannot eat a Kat-Kit. And you would never walk in a zag-zig—you get the picture.

It turns out that other languages do the same thing. According to an article by Susie Dent (a British lexicographer and etymologist), the Japanese call the rusting sound of dry leaves “kasa koso.” And Germans might get themselves in a “WirrWarr” (a muddle), or they might shop for “KrimsKrams” (bric-a-brac).

I don’t know about you, but I always like finding out that I know more than I thought I did. Sadly, it’s usually the other way around. Enjoy your day!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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