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Thu Sep 8, 2016, 09:10 PM

What native English speakers instinctively know.










@MattAndersonBBC over on Twitter has shared an amazing bit of language trivia:

We looked this up and it’s from a book called The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth.

The next paragraph on the vowel sounds and how words are ordered is equally good:

We’ve literally spent the last hour trying to think of phrases that don’t fit and we’ve found none.

Here’s some that DO fit:

Chit-Chat
Click-Clack
Clitter-Clatter
Dilly-Dally
Ding-Dong
Drip-Drop
Flim-Flam
Flip-Flop
Flippity-Floppity
Helter-Skelter
Hob-Nob
Hodge-Podge
Hoity-Toity
Hurly-Burly
Mish-Mash
Namby-Pamby
Pitter-Patter
Randem-Tandem
Ribble-Rabble
Riff-Raff Roly-Poly
See-Saw
Slish-Slosh
Teeny-Tiny
Tick-Tack
Tip-Top
Tittle-Tattle
Wiggle-Waggle
Wishy-Washy

Have fun thinking of ones that don’t fit. The best we’ve got is clunk-click, but that was made up for an old Government information film, so that doesn’t really count.

Source: https://twitter.com/MattAndersonBBC/status/772002757222002688

Here's the link to the page where I found this: http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2016/09/04/bish-bash-bosh/



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Reply What native English speakers instinctively know. (Original post)
PoindexterOglethorpe Sep 2016 OP
liberalla Sep 2016 #1
CaliforniaPeggy Sep 2016 #2
Lionel Mandrake May 2017 #3
PoindexterOglethorpe May 2017 #4

Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Original post)

Thu Sep 8, 2016, 09:27 PM

1. Interesting!

thanks for the links

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Original post)

Thu Sep 8, 2016, 10:15 PM

2. Very cool!

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Original post)

Fri May 26, 2017, 07:42 PM

3. A counterexample to the adjective rule:

If "lovely little ... knife" is an example of "opinion-size- ... noun", then "great big beautiful blonde" has the order of opinion and size reversed, but it sounds okay to me.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #3)

Fri May 26, 2017, 10:52 PM

4. I would argue that in

"great big beautiful blonde" both "great" and "big" are size adjectives.

Although, one could say, "fabulous big beautiful blonde" where the world "fabulous" clearly an opinion word, and that order does sound right.

There are undoubtedly some other small exceptions to those rules, but for the very most part they are instinctive and followed by native English speakers.

I appreciate your counter example. I love language and read up on language and linguistics whenever I can and I'm totally fascinated by the topic. English is my first language. I have a decent command of French, a workable command of Spanish, and can offer up a few words in German and Italian. I am in awe of true bi- or multi-linguals. I live in Santa Fe, and I never fail to be impressed that someone waiting on the public always knows exactly which language to offer to a customer, English or Spanish.

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