Matthew Anderson of the BBC pointed out something on Twitter about the English language that I’d never noticed.
The excerpt Anderson quotes comes from The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth (2013).
… adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order; opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist.
I can actually attest to the unconscious nature of the rule. In trying to type “green great dragons” I twice accidentally typed “great green dragons” before finally slowing down and focusing on the effort.