“good big”

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3035
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

“good big”

Postby Qaanol » Fri May 26, 2017 6:56 pm UTC

I was reading about how adjectives in English have a certain order in which they appear (shown in this list), and it occurred to me that “good big” is a pairing which obeys the ordering rule, yet nonetheless does not naturally appear in English (at least apart from compound-word situations like “big brother”).

We say “nice little” and “nice big” and “good little” but not “good big”.

Does anyone know of an explanation for this?
wee free kings

User avatar
Grop
Posts: 1848
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:36 am UTC
Location: France

Re: “good big”

Postby Grop » Fri May 26, 2017 7:49 pm UTC

Is it really a matter of word order, is "big good" more or less likely to happen? Could big (or good) be replaced with a synonym for some reason?

User avatar
measure
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:31 pm UTC
Location: Time-traveling kayak

Re: “good big”

Postby measure » Sat May 27, 2017 3:33 am UTC

Grop wrote:Is it really a matter of word order, is "big good" more or less likely to happen? Could big (or good) be replaced with a synonym for some reason?

In either order there is a double plosive from the final consonant of the first word and the initial consonant of the second. This makes is a fairly awkward phrase to say out loud, especially when speaking quickly, so perhaps people avoid it for that reason.

As far as "good little...", I've usually heard it used to connote something along the lines of "well-behaved" and/or "friendly", and so perhaps the additional modifier "little" is used to imply "unassuming". If that is the case, then "good big" wouldn't be used because the largeness of the subject does not accentuate its goodness in the same way that smallness would.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2744
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: “good big”

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat May 27, 2017 4:27 am UTC

The list isn't going to work all the time. I think "big, bad" is clearly more common than "bad, big," even though the list claims opinions come before size.

User avatar
jaap
Posts: 2071
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 7:06 am UTC
Contact:

Re: “good big”

Postby jaap » Sat May 27, 2017 5:29 am UTC

See also this language log post. It mentions some examples where the most common word order defies categorization, e.g. "ugly little"/"big ugly".

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2744
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: “good big”

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat May 27, 2017 2:08 pm UTC

It is unfortunately an entirely typical feature of English that usage defies all attempts at writing rules.

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3035
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: “good big”

Postby Qaanol » Mon May 29, 2017 3:13 pm UTC

measure wrote:In either order there is a double plosive from the final consonant of the first word and the initial consonant of the second. This makes is a fairly awkward phrase to say out loud, especially when speaking quickly, so perhaps people avoid it for that reason.

I’m not convinced this explains it. After all, we have no problem saying “good bit” or “good pig”.
wee free kings

User avatar
measure
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:31 pm UTC
Location: Time-traveling kayak

Re: “good big”

Postby measure » Tue May 30, 2017 2:52 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:I’m not convinced this explains it. After all, we have no problem saying “good bit” or “good pig”.

Good point.


Return to “Language/Linguistics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Pfhorrest, Yahoo [Bot] and 5 guests