And now for some observations on word order conventions:
Why are there “mom & pop” stores but not “pop & mom” stores? In fact, Google reveals that “pop & mom” appears fewer than 19,000 times on line while “mom & pop” has 1.38 million iterations. We are very specific about the order in which couples find themselves. Like “mom & pop,” “mom & dad” (over 13 million hits) far outnumbers “dad & mom” (fewer than 1 million appearances online). Likewise, we talk about “grandma & grandpa” (1 million 700 thousand occurrences) but ignore poor old “grandpa & grandma” (549,000), and “aunts & uncles” make 868,000 more appearances than “uncles & aunts.” But, cheer up male partners: “Mr. & Mrs.” overshadows “Mrs. and Mr.” by a nearly seven to one margin. And, “boys & girls” outnumber “girls & boys” by about the same ratio. On the other hand, “ladies & gentlemen” still beats “gentlemen & ladies” by well over ten to one.
Need more reflections on common phrases that normally pass through our lips unchallenged? Why “this and that,” but never “that and this”? How come “sooner or later,” but never “later or sooner”? Did anyone ever say, “Cher and Sonny“? “Yarnell and sheilds“? “Marie and Donny“? “Robin and Batman“? “Bean Sprout and the Jolly Green Giant“?
Finally, we tend to ask if people want to hear, “the good news or the bad news,” instead of vice-versa, and, “comedy and and tragedy” appears twice as often in a Google search than, “tragedy and comedy.” However, we say, “in sickness and in health” instead of, “in health and in sickness.” So, sometimes we like the bad to come first.
What have we learned from all of this? For one thing, it’s that people aren’t very inventive in the way they communicate. Perhaps, just perhaps, we have also learned how to fill up a blog post with pointless observations.
I also think that it’s fun to be mindful of our speech and to mix things up a bit, if only to confuse people.
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