Stone, Cold, Sober, Thought

A friend, very bright and keen about language rules, recently advised me that “stone” is a noun and can’t be an adjective.  The reason: there’s no comparative form, such as stoner, stonest, more stone, most stone.  The proper designation for the word is either noun adjunct or adjectival.  I checked my oldest and newest dictionaries at home—neither identified stone as an adjective. On-line sources were divided but seemed to favor only noun and verb as functions. My own sensibilities told me that noun adjunct was a better—more accurate—term: stone statue, stone foundation, stone jar. The noun in these phrases wouldn’t be complete without the added word. My friend was, is, right.

I enjoyed a brief search trying to establish “stone” as an adjective, but eventually I just reviewed  types, proper order, and rules for punctuating a series of adjectives.  Can one insert the word “and” between each? If so, the adjectives are coordinate, and a comma separates each except the one before the noun. If cumulative, then one adjective may belong with another and thus no comma separates the two.   In the preferred order of adjectives, shape and color precede material.

I couldn’t resist a test. Only the last one is correct. (Maybe)

One doesn’t see a stone, blue, round, jar.
One doesn’t see a stone, blue, round jar.
One doesn’t see a round, stone, blue, jar.
One doesn’t see a round, stone, blue jar.
One doesn’t see a blue, stone, round, jar.
One doesn’t see a blue, stone, round jar.
One doesn’t see a round, blue, stone, jar.
One doesn’t see a round, blue, stone jar.
One doesn’t see a round, blue stone jar.

I very much value clarity and rules that lead to it. There’s a pleasure in deviation, too, experimenting, or just searching for that special feel or sight, or speaking from the heart. Rules must be held lightly then, if at all. That’s an old rule, too.  Here’s an “introductory hint” found in  Reed & Kellogg ‘s 1895 English Grammar and Composition. “Arrangement—Transposed Order.”

The common and natural order, spoken of in the preceding Lesson, is not the only order admissible in an English sentence; on the contrary, great freedom in the placing of words and phrases is sometimes allowable.  Let the relation of the words be kept obvious and, consequently, the thought clear, and in poetry, in impassioned oratory, in excited speech of any kind, one may deviate widely from this order. (94))

Yes, such deviation from the natural order gave us and will continue to give us schemes and tropes and phrases we could never form by the rules. “Lend me your ears.” “I will fight no more forever.” “Every goodbye ain’t gone.”

About rmkinder

This entry was posted in Creative Writing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stone, Cold, Sober, Thought

  1. This was a fascinating read! Thank you!


  2. I enjoyed this post. As I’ve been working on a couple of stories lately, I’ve actually been fretting over how to punctuate series of adjectives. I’m going to go with Reed and Kellogg!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s