This is a topic that has been touched on before in this forum, but if there has been an extensive discussion focussed on it, I have missed it.
Earlier this evening, I was reading a novel by Rex Stout, a punctilious stylist, and encountered:
He was a plump short guy, going bald, without much of a nose to hold up his rimless glasses.
Granted, the description is first-person narrative, not auctorial omniscience, but the narrator is known to us as himself schooled, if chiefly by exposure to Nero Wolfe, in sound English.
It struck me that most people would have written "a short plump guy". The difference here is not striking though it did catch my eye but there definitely is, in the general sense, some arcane formula for the order of adjectives in English. A simple unexceptionable description
It was a tall red stone wall.
will look unusual, if not positively bizarre, if we take those adjectives in any of their five other possible orders.

I have thought, not at length, on the matter. A superficial first idea that "innateness" might rule (being made of stone is a more "innate" quality than color or height, and color is more "innate" than height) falls apart when some other simple orders are considered. In
He was a tall, blond, Swedish fellow.
surely height is more "innate" than hair color, which can be transformed in minutes, yet "a blond, tall, Swedish fellow" has that wrong-order quality of weirdness.
Does anyone know of any work that has produced passably reliable rules for determining adjective order? Raw conjecture is not what's wanted: rules that always work, or come close to always working, would be interesting.

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
This is a topic that has been touched on before in this forum, but if there has been an extensive ... order? Raw conjecture is not what's wanted: rules that always work, or come close to always working, would be interesting.

Good question. Why is it always a "big fat" something, and not a "fat big" something? (I saw a tall short order cook the other day, but that doesn't really get us anywhere!)
Does anyone know of any work that has produced passably ... work, or come close to always working, would be interesting.

Good question. Why is it always a "big fat" something, and not a "fat big" something? (I saw a tall short order cook the other day, but that doesn't really get us anywhere!)

Do you have time for a short tall tale?
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Does anyone know of any work that has produced passably reliable rules for determining adjective order? Raw conjecture is not what's wanted: rules that always work, or come close to always working, would be interesting.

Don't know if this helps at all, but Thomson/Martinet come up with this:
19 Order of adjectives of qualityA Several variations are possible but a fairly usual order is: adjectives of
(a) size (except "little", )
(b) general description (excluding adjectives of personality, emotion etc.)
(c) age, and the adjective "little" ()
(d) shape
(e) colour
(f) material
(g) origin
(h) purpose (these are really gerunds used to form compound nound: "walking stick", "riding boots").
a long sharp knife a small round bath
new hexagonal coins blue velvet curtains
an old plastic bucket an elegant French clock
Adjectives of personality/emotion come after adjectives of physical description, including "dark", "fair", "pale", but before colours:
a small suspicious official a long patient queue a pale anxious girl a kindly black doctor an inquisitive brown dog
Reliable enough?

Peter