Why do we say Ping-Pong and not pong-ping? Why King Kong and not Kong King? I’m pretty sure you are in awe at this point. It’s a rule you know but aren’t conscious of.
According to a BBC article, the rule states: If there are three words then the order has to go I, A, O. If there are two words then the first is I and the second is either A or O.
Another unwritten rule exists in the name ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ says the article.
Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in order: opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose noun. As an implication, you can have a ‘lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife’. But if you mess with the word order in any form, you’d sound like a maniac.’
This explains why we say ‘little green men’ not ‘green little men,’ but ‘big bad wolf’ sounds like a gross violation of the opinion (bad) – size (big) – noun (wolf) order. It won’t though if you recall the I-A-O order.
The rule is inviolable. It has a technical name: the rule of Ablaut Reduplication. But isn’t life simpler without knowing the rule?
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