+0
good or bad
better or worse

big or small

young or old

mainstream or crazy

The left side of 'or' sort of belongs to 'more positive' category. Even the beauty comes before the beast! Is there any philosophy behind?
Treat or trick?
If you don't give me candy and chocolate, I'll play tricks! Does the reverse make sense,too? "Trick or treat?" It sounds to me that when one offers choices, one tends to say the more pleasant one.

At Starbucks

Clerk: Can I help you?

Pastel: I'd like a Late, please.

1-Clerk: Grande or medium?

2-Clerk: Medium or grande? (He'd better get himself prepared! He might get a pink slip soon!)

3-Clerk: Medium? (Pause.................) Or grande? (Maybe Pastel is a regular patron and the clerk knows Pastel's preference. Or grande? How about grande this time?)

1 2
Comments  
It's an interesting observation, Pastel, and we may be hard-pressed to think of contrary examples. Even 'trick or treat' can be thought of as consistent with the [hidden?] rule, in the sense that the prime, preferred, positive, role of a little goblin, or ghoul, is do tricks on people.

The list goes on and on--

more/ less, heavy/ light, top/bottom, male/ female, smoking/ non-smoking, forward/backward, love/ hate, Heaven/ Hell, clockwise/counter clockwise, high/ low, first-class/ coach, major/ minor, light/ dark, something/ nothing.

I wonder what the Taoists think about this, with their notion of the universal law of the interplay of -but especially the equality of- opposites.

An exception?--

Black/ white-- (But then, consider that black is all colors, white is no color.)
DavkettBlack/ white-- (But then, consider that black is all colors, white is no color.)

Not so if you're talking about light. When using light, white is made by mixing all colors; black is made in the absence of light.

Tim
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
"Smoking or non-smoking?"
Is it because the popularity of smoking overwhelms that of non-smoking?
Actually, Pastel, I missed the potential implication of that one. No, now that I look at it--it only reflects the rule of placing a [straightforward, grammatical] term against its negation...nothing to do with popular trends.
I guess so. I was thinking about that question while taking a shower. That's why we have Yes/No question.

[] or [-positive]
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Hurm...very interesting question!

We say in Japanese 'old and young', 'south and north', 'sky and earth', 'left and right', 'night and day', and 'out and in'. They are just reverse in order to English versions. On the other hand, things like 'good and bad', 'big and small', 'strong and weak', 'up and down', 'east and west', 'spring and autumn', 'man and woman', 'wife and kids', 'sun and moon' are the same as English. As for colors, we say 'white and black' but 'red and white'. We also say 'red and black' rather than 'black and red'. But I think it comes from the title of the famous French novel 'Rouge et Noir'. As for the verbs, we say 'drink and eat' and 'sleep and eat' oppositely to English but 'sell and buy' the same way as English. We also say 'drink, bet and buy' to symbolize men's debauchery.
paco
Anonymous
Davkett
Black/ white-- (But then, consider that black is all colors, white is no color.)

Not so if you're talking about light. When using light, white is made by mixing all colors; black is made in the absence of light.

Tim

Hi Tim,

Thanks for that distinction. I must admit that I tend to come to these color terms through pigmentation and paint-mixing, which doesn't work the same way as color mixing with light itself. I would not normally refer to light as 'black/ white', but would use the opposites, 'light/dark', which conforms to the apparent rule that seems to be more generally adopted for complementary pairing.
Paco,

Just a clarification, please. In Japan,do you pronounce these complementary pairs in English or Japanese? I'm asking because I'm wondering how much the order actually depends on the easiest flow of sounds. Or is there something conceptual that is different from one culture to another. For instance, the national flag of Japan is a red circle figure on a white background, so you say red before white.

By the way, I find it's more natural over here to say, 'buy/sell'. Did you get a different impression from googling? And we have 'eat, drink, and be merry'.
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more