Hyperbaton

My favorite concept that I learned this year is hyperbaton.  I didn’t realize it was a rule that I could not write “a blue tiny beautiful egg.”  That’s hyperbaton:  an odd order of words.  Adjectives must be in this sequence:  opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose and then the noun.

e-of-eLuckily for this native English speaker, this just gets into our heads as we learn language.  I was never taught this rule and yet, I know how to order the adjectives.

This startling revelation came to me from “The Elements of Eloquence” by Mark Forsyth.  It is a delightful little softcover book (note the proper sequence).

In the same chapter as hyperbaton, he also reveals the secret of “ablaut reduplication.”  The word is hip-hop, never hop-hip.  Or flip-flop, not the reverse.  “When you repeat a word with a different vowel, the order is I A O.”  I had no idea that was a rule, a rule with a name.  Ding-dong.