February 17, 2004

Adjectives: the Rodney Dangerfield of grammatical categories

Ben Yagoda writes about adjectives in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The lead:

As far as not getting respect goes, adjectives leave Rodney Dangerfield in the dust. They rank right up there with Osama bin Laden, Geraldo Rivera, and the customer-service policies of cable-TV companies. That it is good to avoid them is one of the few points on which the sages of writing agree. Thus Voltaire: "The adjective is the enemy of the noun, though it agrees with it in number and gender." Thus Twain: "When you catch an adjective, kill it."

Let's add Fowler's complaint about Kipling's "remorseless and scientific efficiency in the choice of epithets", recently noted here.

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 17, 2004 01:14 PM