RULES AND USAGE IN PUTTING ADJECTIVES IN ORDER. In his review, Mark Liberman disagrees with Forsyth’s rule on adjective order and argues that Forsyth has overstated his case. He quotes Forsyte’s statement of the rule: “adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun….if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”
The word “absolutely” and the notion that if you deviate even slightly, you will sound like a maniac invite disagreement. In fact, in the very next sentence—after Forsyth says that a deviation from proper adjective order would make you sound like a maniac—he acknowledges that the “rule” is a generalization based on usage—“It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list”.
Mark Liberman criticizes Forsyth’s rule on the basis that usage studies do not show that the rule is followed 100% of the time. He cites studies which show that the rule will predict the order of two pairs of words approximately 75% of the time—a lot better than 50%, but well short of 100%
Nevertheless, it does seem to me an odd thing that English speakers do to follow a set order for adjectives much of the time so that a deviation from that order sounds strange.