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“good big”

Posted: Fri May 26, 2017 6:56 pm UTC
by Qaanol
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?

Re: “good big”

Posted: Fri May 26, 2017 7:49 pm UTC
by Grop
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?

Re: “good big”

Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 3:33 am UTC
by measure
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.

Re: “good big”

Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 4:27 am UTC
by Eebster the Great
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.

Re: “good big”

Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 5:29 am UTC
by jaap
See also this language log post. It mentions some examples where the most common word order defies categorization, e.g. "ugly little"/"big ugly".

Re: “good big”

Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 2:08 pm UTC
by Eebster the Great
It is unfortunately an entirely typical feature of English that usage defies all attempts at writing rules.

Re: “good big”

Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 3:13 pm UTC
by Qaanol
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”.

Re: “good big”

Posted: Tue May 30, 2017 2:52 pm UTC
by measure
Qaanol wrote:I’m not convinced this explains it. After all, we have no problem saying “good bit” or “good pig”.

Good point.