White people:You have to wait for the facts before you talk about Ferguson!
Eyewitnesses:He was on his knees with his hands up.
Medical examiner:There was no gunpowder residue on Mike Brown, no sign of struggle, and there were entry wounds on the inside of his arms and the top of his head, implying he was on his knees with his hands up.
Convenience store owner and clerk:There was no robbery and we didn't call the cops.
Ferguson PD:Okay, we admit it, Wilson didn't know anything happened at the convenience store and we determined no crime was committed.
White people:Nobody can say what happened! We still have to wait for the facts to come in!
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”—
What fucks me up about the Darren Wilson fundraiser is that he hasn’t been charged with a crime. He doesn’t have to hire a lawyer. He’s on paid leave, so he’s not losing wages. This is not covering his expenses, because he doesn’t have any additional expenses. This is a reward. He’s getting a $250,000 reward for murdering an unarmed black kid, two days away from starting college, in broad daylight.
It is a lovely warm August day outside, and I am wearing a green loose top. Does the second part of that sentence sound strange to you? Perhaps you think I should have written “loose green top.” You’re not wrong (though not entirely right, because descriptivist linguistics): An intuitive code governs the way English speakers order adjectives. The rules come so naturally to us that we rarely learn about them in school, but over the past few decades language nerds have been monitoring modifiers, grouping them into categories, and straining to find logic in how people instinctively rank those categories. […]
Linguists have broken the adjectival landmass into several regions. They are: general opinion or quality (“exquisite,” “terrible”), specific opinion or quality (“friendly,” “dusty”), size, shape, age, color, origin, and material. Generally, modifiers from the same region can be strung together in any order. Thomas Wolfe, writing in Look Homeward, Angelof “blistered varnished wood” and “fat limp underdone bacon,” could also have said “varnished blistered wood” or “limp fat underdone bacon.” (All five examples count as “specific opinion” words.) […]
These tricky situations—neither pure correlation nor accumulation—generally occur when you cross the border between adjectival regions, such as size and color. When that happens, an invisible code snaps into place, and the eight categories shimmy into one magistral conga line: general opinion then specific opinion then size then shape then age then color then provenance then material.
Also related is this Tom Scott video on adjective ordering. The generalization that adjectives seem to be ordered the same way across a wide variety of languages is the type of data used as evidence for a cartographic approach to linguistics: detailed typological surveys of how aspects of language do or do not vary in very specific ways.