Padmum who holds a Master’s Degree in English and has taught English to college students has sent this absolutely stunning information.
The Rule of Ablaut Reduplication.
Why `tock-tick’ does not sound right to your ears.
Ever wondered why we say :
tick-tock, not tock-tick,
not dong ding;
not Kong King…?
Turns out it is one of the unwritten rules of English that native speakers know without knowing.
The rule, explains a BBC article, is:
“If there are three words then the order has to go…
I, A, O.
If there are two words then the first is I and the second is either A or O.”
There’s another unwritten rule at work in the name Little Red Riding Hood, says the article.
“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order:
Opinion – Size – Age -Shape – Colour -Origin – Material -Purpose – Noun.
So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.
But if you mess with that word order in the slightest… you’ll sound like a maniac.“
That explains why we say “little green men“ not “green little men,“
But “Big Bad Wolf “ sounds like a gross violation of the “opinion (bad)-size (big) noun (wolf)“ order.
It won’t, though, if you recall the first rule about the I-A-O order…!!
That rule seems inviolable:
“All four of a horse’s feet make exactly the same sound.
But we always, always say clip-clop, never clop-clip!