Couples: what is the rule?


OK, this is in Not TA, but lets start with a couple (ha!) of examples from that very source. It’s ‘Adam and Ian’ and Brian and Jennifer’, never the other way about. And to take some from my own store, it’s ‘Maria and Andy’ and ‘Lynn and John’, but ‘Peter and Mary’ and ‘Brendan and Helen’. And the thing is, everyone else uses that order too. It’s not just partnerships, either: the same thing with siblings: ‘Carol and Helen’, ‘Simon and Helen’, ‘Tony and Peter’, ‘Declan and Ger’.
What determines it? Is it euphony? And if so, how is it working?

Oooh, what a lot of Helens. Only one of the three mentioned is certifiably bonkers, but oh boy does she make up for the other two.


It must be the first time it is said out loud - bonk, that’s it for all time!


I think That Fish and I are referred to based on which of us someone knew first.


I’m not sure that’s true because it tends to be independently arising - ie everyone calls them ‘Maria & Andy’. And couples very seldom announce themselves by both names. I suppose they might if knocking at a door - ‘It’s only Zelda and Scott’, say… Or how they sign Christmas cards, but that depends on who writes them and, at the risk of being horribly sexist and banned for life, then the female name would almost invariably come first…


I have often wondered about just this; Janet and John, for instance, sounds right and John and Janet sounds wrong, but is it because they have always been said that way? Jack and Jill; Jane and John; Pat and Tony…


Ah, hadn’t thought of that, and it sort of makes sense, but I can think of a couple - oh blast it - of couples of my acquaintance where that doesn’t apply.


Everyone knows Liver & Onions


Is it bacon and eggs or eggs and bacon? It’s always ham-and-eggs; salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, bangers and mash…


Often, it’s a matter of rhythm. “Salt and vinegar” ends on an unstressed syllable, “vinegar and salt” a stressed one:

Also, vowel/consonant juxtapositions can generally be elided, wheres consecutive vowels or consonants may not, so again, people are likely to gravitate towards the easiest to pronounce.


well that does explain why eggs and bacon sounds ok,

but does it explain why onions and liver doesn’t?

or doesn’t it not?


There was a R4 programme a year or so ago where they explained the natural order of pairing … it’s to do with the second letter (or third if the second is a consonant). The problem being I can’t recall the detail.

I’ll try to look it up.


The sibilance of the ‘s’ in onions makes it difficult to separate from the following vowel without making a conscious effort. Liver is a neat, self contained word that doesn’t threaten the following word… Sibilance preceding a vowel makes for some messy speech without injecting a break.


I googled this

“word pairing, rules of order for the words”

& got a lot of items explaining the unknown/silent rules for the ordering of words. Too many for me to select a best one but take a peep.


Yer a star, Armers!

I once went to a lot of trouble to find out why it is for instance a big red india-rubber ball, or a silly old purple dress, and discovered that there are actual rules about adjective order; this surprised me no end.


It’s a pleasure. I recall very much enjoying the radio programme and being amazed that we all use rules of which we are generally unaware.

It makes sense however.

So, off for chips & fish after a preparing some butter & bread.


In ‘Shirley Valentine’ she spoke of ‘chips and eggs’ (which they had one Tuesdays, if I recall) when she served them twice in one week having given the steak to the dog. It sounded so very odd and I have never heard it said before or since.


Scouser you see. No rules.


Funny you should say that, I have four scouse grandparents and never heard that from them or any of the numerous Liverpool rellies. On the other hand, Willy Russell is a scouser so he should know.

Speaking of Willy Russell, have you ever watched ‘Our Day Out’? I am particularly fond of it because I swear it’s my Auntie May playing the lovely, kind teacher in it. I mean, not really, but she was like that. A young Alun Armstrong is the deputy head. Here it is on Youtube:

Our Day Out


I know the works of Willy Russell very well & he focuses most of it from the position of the “Scouse Nation”. Nice, if a bit trite and simplistic, work in my not especially humble opinion.

I did many years light & sound in a local Little Theatre and “Our Day Out” fits the bill nicely. I have worked on 2 productions of it … one with my 2 sons in the play. Also did “Shirley”, which I like a lot. Mrs. Shanks, surprisingly or not, played Rita in “Educating Rita”. As a 2 hander that’s tough to stage. Again, a bit too “aren’t we downtrodden here, but we’ll show you all” cartoon Scouse for my liking but overall a good piece.

His success with “Blood Brothers” is a phenomenon I don’t quite understand … I know people who’ve seen it dozens of times. Once was more than enough for me tbh .


I thought the scene where the little girl asks why it can’t always be like this and the teacher has no magic solution was very touching. I also hugely enjoyed the first scene with the crossing man and the girl when she explained she was in the ‘progress class’. And what the ‘progress class’ was.