[Grammar] Adjective order

nyggus

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Hi there,

I've just read in Mark Forsyth's The Elements of Eloquence that "adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun" (emphasis mine). So, I checked the Cambridge Dictionairy, and what did I learn? That adjectives' order should be opinion-size-physical quality-shape-age-colour-origin-material-type-purpose.

Have you noticed the opposite order of "shape" and "age" in these two lists? From Forsyth's words—I think you will agree with me—it follows that no other order is possible. He added, "But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you'll sound like a maniac". Does the Cambridge Dictionairy aim to breed the society of maniacs? I researched a couple of other Internet sources and noticed that they, too, aim to breed maniacs.

What's going on here?

Thanks,
nyggus
 

Lynxear

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I would use the adjective order where "shape" came before "age".

1. John was a tall old man.

2. John was an old tall man.

To me, #1 sounds a tiny bit better to my ears than #2, but the difference is small.
 

Skrej

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I think Forsyth is a large, pompous old windbag to declare his version absolute. Note my preferred order of adjectives in my assessment.

There is only general agreement on the order of adjectives, with room to move one quality up or down a bit in the list, although if you move one quality substantially higher or lower, it might sound odd. This allows for some flexibility for the speaker to emphasize a particular quality by listing it first.
 

Rover_KE

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Forsyth's ridiculous statement "But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you'll sound like a maniac" makes me wonder how many of his other pronouncements are to be trusted.
 

SoothingDave

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I have a big old problem with that list.
 
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