It is a lovely warm August day outside, and I am wearing a green loose top. Does the second part of that sentence sound strange to you? Perhaps you think I should have written “loose green top.” You’re not wrong (though not entirely right, because descriptivist linguistics): An intuitive code governs the way English speakers order adjectives. The rules come so naturally to us that we rarely learn about them in school, but over the past few decades language nerds have been monitoring modifiers, grouping them into categories, and straining to find logic in how people instinctively rank those categories.
Doo doo doo, doo doo-doo doo…
Hugh and I spent weeks in the summer of 2007 studying. During that time, I learned the difference between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. I learned that in 1857 women in the U.K. won the right to divorce their husbands. I learned that people below the age of sixteen cannot deliver milk in the U.K., but I don’t think I learned why. It was just one of those weird English injustices, like summer.
Before taking the real test, I took the fake ones provided at the back of the study manual. “What is the traditional meat served for Christmas dinner?” was one of the questions. Another was “How might you stop young people playing tricks on you at Halloween?” It was multiple-choice, and possible answers included “call the police” and “hide from them.”
a little Sedaris for all
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