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1a. Mother has become a confident, independent woman. 1b. Mother ... ambitious, and good-looking women. 6c. Intelligent, ambitious and good-looking women.

None of the above is/are wrong. The use of "and" can suggest discrete grouping though, eg. 3a: If his behaviour ... in the same way as 3a, of course, but it might not be.) This difference is clearest in 5a/b. Adrian

Thank you, Adrian. Point taken about "non-simultaneity". One more for the notes.

Paulo
On 22 Oct 2003 10:23:30 -0700, Evan Kirshenbaum
"Black and white" and "red, white, and blue" are two traditional phrases. Beyond that, there is no rule.

I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to say "there is no rule". If one of two colors ... and white) are not colors, but must be placed between colors. There are probably other regularities that we could discover.

Oh dear, it appears that the worms have got loose from the bag!

Evan, I like the heraldic aspect - I just rang a British-born acquaintance (who dabbles with pewterware) and he agrees completely.

Paulo
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paulo (Email Removed) filted:
Also, would it be opening a bag of worms to ask about colo(u)r order? Why "black and white" and not "white and black"?

Well, obviously it's not a universal thing based on the colors themselves; Romance languages invariably have it the other way round: "blanc et noir", "blanco y negro", etc..
Why normally "yellow and black" and not "black and yellow"? Why "red, white, and blue" and not "R, B, and W" or "W, R, and B" or...

In the musical "Hair" there's a short sardonic number about the sanctity of the (US) flag called "Don't Put It Down", in which the colors are permuted in each verse: first your two alternative suggestions in the very order you made them, then "blue, white and red", and finally that last with the addition of yellow (fringe)..
Full lyrics can be found at: http://www.lyricscrawler.com/song/80915.html
etc

..r
...
Now, if you were to ask the difference between "greenish blue" and "blue-ish green," then there would be an answer.

Which is?
Why "black and white" and not "white and black"?

Well, obviously it's not a universal thing based on the colors themselves; Romance languages invariably have it the other way round: "blanc et noir", "blanco y negro", etc..

Invariably, no.
In Portuguese (also a romance language) it's "preto e branco" !! At least when referring to TV and photographs.
I've just tried an experiment with these two colo(u)rs:

A rectangle with two equal-sized black and white parts: When I showed it to people as black on the left and white on the right I invariably (90%) got a "preto e branco" reply.
When I showed it with white on the left and black on the right I got 67% of "branco e preto" replies - not using the same sample (people).

The "most visible" factor of colo(u)rs seems to play a part.

This "visibilty" factor might help explain the "red, white and blue" - on the British Union Flag red is the most visible (not largest area - most visible) colo(u)r; then heraldic (?) instincts put in the (metal) white as a seperator, followed by the blue?
I think that the worms that escaped from my bag are becoming snakes!

Paulo
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In the following phrases which would be more "correct" (I ... woman. 1b. Mother has become a confident and independent woman.

Both are fine.

Agreed.
2a. Mother has become a strong, confident, independent woman. 2b. ... 2c. Mother has become a strong, confident and independent woman.

For nonnewspaperese in the U.S.A., 2c is bad.

I think this is going a bit too far. I agree in preferring the serial comma, but plenty of Americans are misguided enough to like it the other way. If I were teaching EFL, I wouldn't mark either wrong. (And I'd probably find myself spending much more time on the correct past participle of "become", making sure students didn't think "confident" meant "trusting", etc.)
3a. His difficult, stubborn behavior is disrupting class. 3b. His difficult and stubborn behavior is disrupting class.

Both are awful. Cut the (misplaced nonrestrictive) adjectives, leaving this: "His behavior is disrupting class." A context that would make ... behavior indoors is disrupting class, but his easygoing, complaisant behavior outside is making play periods a joy." Clunky, but legal.

I would say very few native speakers would see a problem with the nonrestrictive adjectives.
There is a semantic problem, though, which may be connected with what Adrian was saying. "Difficult behavior" is simply behavior that's difficult to deal with. "Stubborn behavior" is a specific kind of difficult behavior. So I don't think the sentence is particularly good writing; "difficult" is redundant.
4a. His capricious, difficult, stubborn behavior is disrupting us. 4b. ... 4c. His capricious, difficult and stubborn behavior is disrupting us.

All are awful. For 4a and 4b, see above; for nonnewspaperese in the U.S.A., 4c is bad. (And can we really be disrupted?)

(I don't think so, though lots of native speakers would probably say it.) Again, "difficult" strikes me as redundant.
5a. Intelligent, ambitious women. 5b. Intelligent and ambitious women.

Both are OK.

However, 5b would be ambiguous in certain contexts it could mean "intelligent women and ambitious women". The ambiguity is not that important because there's some expectation that intelligent people are ambitious (though I think counterexamples can be found in a.u.e.)
6a. Intelligent, ambitious, good-looking women. 6b. Intelligent, ambitious, and good-looking women. 6c. Intelligent, ambitious and good-looking women.

6a and 6b are fine; for nonnewspaperese in the U.S.A., 6c is bad.

Here the ambiguity is stronger, because as Paulo noted, there's some expectation that intelligent people aren't good-looking. "He invited all the intelligent, ambitious, and good-looking women in town to the party." Is that three categories or one?
...

Jerry Friedman
Also "Harvard comma", and here in northern New Mexico I've heard "Los Alamos comma". Associating it with a snooty institution is a way of distracting the naive from the comma's advantages in clarity.
Also, would it be opening a bag of worms to ask about colo(u)r order? Why "black and white" ... Why "red, white, and blue" and not "R, B, and W" or "W, R, and B" or... etc

I'm familiar only with "can of worms". "Bag of worms" suggests "bagworms", which the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary on line defines as "any of a family (Psychidae) of moths with wingless females and plant-feeding larvae that live in a silk case covered with plant debris; especially : one ( Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis ) often destructive to deciduous and evergreen trees of the eastern U.S."

I was brought up to state the colors of the French flag as "blue, white, and red", starting from the staff. The same rule would apply to other tricolors.
I might easily describe the Brazilian flag as "green, blue, yellow, and I guess white", in order of visual importance to me. The other possibility is "green, yellow, blue, and white", from the background in. For those who want to know what I'm describing, and scroll down.

Jerry Friedman
I'm familiar only with "can of worms". "Bag of worms" suggests "bagworms", which the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary on line defines ... plant debris; especially : one ( Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis ) often destructive to deciduous and evergreen trees of the eastern U.S."

Thank you for correcting me, I meant can.
I COULD lie and put it down to a cultural difference - you guys are hot on cans, whilst we go more for old-fashioned bags ;-) Deus me livre - idiomatic expressions, phrasal verbs, ... ... at times I feel like giving up :-((
I was brought up to state the colors of the French flag as "blue, white, and red", starting from the staff. The same rule would apply to other tricolors.

Aha! a rule! from the flagstaff outwards!
I just love rules!
I might easily describe the Brazilian flag as "green, blue, yellow, and I guess white", in order of visual importance ... blue, and white", from the background in. For those who want to know what I'm describing, and scroll down.

Exactly what we do - G,Y,B,W - background in.
The green represents the forests, the yellow represents the sun and our mineral wealth, the blue represents the sky, and the white stars show the positions of the stellar constellations as seen in the night sky of Rio de Janeiro on 15 November 1889 - Independence day. The white strip represents peace.

Paulo
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Now, if you were to ask the difference between "greenish blue" and "blue-ish green," then there would be an answer.

Which is?

"Greenish blue" is blue with some green in it, and so on.

Is there a problem? I suppose it's that people could argue endlessly over whether a particular shade *is* greenish blue or blue-ish green. But my point was the meaning of the order of the words.

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