20 November 2014

OSASCOMP: Applied analysis

OSASCOMP = Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose
QOSASCOMP = Quantity, Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose.
Mnemonic 1: On Saturday And Sunday Cold Ovens Make Pastry.
Mnemonic 2: Quite Often Simply Asking Someone Can Obliterate Many Problems (source)
QOSASCOMP is listed here for completeness. For the moment I prefer OSASCOMP.

This rule appears to have been invented to help ESL (English as a second language) teachers and students. It is also useful for technical journalists, writers and translators who often need to string together multiple adjectives and qualifiers and as a result can quickly become confused or hesitant as to the best order.
Note, however, that this is a guide, not a strict rule and that there are some contexts where the order depends on the context or which term one wishes to emphasise.

See, for instance: Translating technical journalism: OSASCOMP revisited (11/09/14), Order, qualifiers (same type,comma separated) (14/10/14), OSASCOMP revisited (11/09/14)

It also explains the rule as follows:
Opinion (ridiculous, crazy, beautiful)
Size (big, small)
Age (old, young)
Shape (round, square)
Colour (yellow, blue)
Origin (American, British)
Material (polyester, Styrofoam)
Purpose (swimming in 'swimming pool'; shooting in 'shooting range'

(I am still thinking about whether the letter 'P' should be for "Purpose or Price", or whether the rule the rule should be restated as OSASCOMPP, or possible POSASCOMP. More to come on this.)

Important notes from Adjective order:
1. The adjectives used in the table below are examples only.
2. Some adjectives can be found in different positions, but if you follow the OSASCOMP rule you won’t be wrong!
Further advice from Adjective order in English:
Take care when applying the rule to categorise the adjectives correctly. For example, "The old rotund man read a short old story about an ugly big bear" seems to follow the rules, yet sounds wrong. In this case, 'old' and 'short' are qualifiers, not merely size or age designations, because 'old man' is a social concept on its own, and 'short story' is a genre. And 'big ugly' is a 'commonplace term'.
The qualifiers in the examples in Order, qualifiers (same type,comma separated) – A $27.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for 7 GQM-163A Coyote SSST base vehicles – are of all in the same category which means that they can be listed in any order.

Collins Cobuild (link)

Under 'order of adjectives', Collins Cobuild (p13) (1992 edition) says:
"When more than one adjective is used in front of a noun, the usual order is:
quantitative adj. – colour adj. – classifying adj.
rapid technological change."
The authors go on to add:
"However, non-gradable adjectives indicating shape, such as 'circular' and 'rectangular', often come in front of the colour adjectives, even though they are classifying adjectives."

Practical English Usage (Wiki link)

In Practical English Usage, under 'commas' (ref. 14.5, p9) (2nd ed.), Michael Swan writes:
"Before nouns, we generally use commas between adjectives (especially in long sequences) which give similar kinds of information, for example in physical descriptions.
            a lovely, long, cool, refreshing drink
            an expensive, ill-planned, wasteful project

(Sorry the image of this table is so small. 
I do hope that those interested can see it.)

Examples from here and there:
  • On 13 January 2015, The Age carried an article entitled A castle for the price of an apartment that included the words "an English medieval castle". OSASCOMP suggests that this should have read "a medieval English castle", which certainly sounds better to me.
  • Is there a difference between "top-quality canned sardines" and "canned top-quality sardines"? It seems to me that the former implies that both the sardines and the canning process are 'top quality' whereas the latter means that only the sardines are 'top quality'. If this analysis is correct, what conclusions can we draw?
  • This page of the Lindt website promotes "Swiss premium chocolate". IMHO and according to the above analysis that should read "premium Swiss chocolate".
Please feel free to comment or supply other examples.

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