Since this question was posted today (Is there any rule which dictates the ordering of non-proper, non-pronoun nouns in a list?) and I thought I remembered seeing a number of older questions with relevant answers, I ended up creating a new tag for them: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/list-order?sort=votes&pageSize=30

However, I'm still not sure about the name. I went with "list-order", because to me it seems like the main connecting idea is how to order coordinated words, and a set of coordinated elements in some order can from my perspective be referred to as a "list" even if it only contains two elements.

However, this might not be the most intuitive name (another problem might be the similarity with the older tag , which mainly deals with questions about things like alphabetization).

Does anyone have a good idea for what to call it? I'm going to post a few suggestions of my own as answers so they can be voted on independently of this post.


5 Answers 5



I just noticed that this term is used in the paper John Lawler linked to, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/haj/worldorder.pdf

It seems like a good description to me, although perhaps it might seem too technical to some people.

  • This one actually says what it means. 'set-phrase' (while probably a good idea for other things), would include this and much more.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:04


This seems to refer specifically to pairs, like "fish and chips", but perhaps it could be extended to be the general name for this topic since the majority of the questions are in fact about pairs of words.

  • 1
    For what it's worth, the Wikipedia article currently titled Siamese twins (linguistics) has sections on trinomials and triplets. But would binomials-and-trinomials cover ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages?
    – choster
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:44
  • @choster: thanks for the link!
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:48

Surprisingly, we don't seem to have a tag. That would probably be the most recognizable and appropriate.

According to Oxford Dictionaries Online:

set phrase
An unvarying phrase having a specific meaning, such as ‘raining cats and dogs’, or being the only context in which a word appears, for example ‘amends’ in ‘make amends’.

  • This seems broader than the examples in the original post, however, as expressions like you never know or dead end are set phrases but not coordinated like pots and pans or beg, steal, or borrow.
    – choster
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:34
  • @choster Good point. Might still be a useful tag though. list-order set-phrase for instance.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:35


As I said in the question post, I originally went with "list-order" because I want to cover both expressions with two coordinated words (like "fish and chips") or more (like "red, white and blue") and the best word I could think of to describe these expressions was "lists".

  • The expression "fish and chips" is not a list of ingredients, it's the name of a dish. Who has ever said "We're going out to buy some chips and fish"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 21:59
  • "Mom and dad", "ladies and gentlemen", "husband and wife", "cats and dogs", "black and white", "in and out", etc. etc. are all examples of lists?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 22:03
  • @Mari-LouA I think 'binomial', as you suggested, is appropriate for two. And if two were he idea I think we'd be done. But sumelic also included 'red white and blue' and presumably intended the name should apply to as many as used.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 22:46


The tag "freezes" already exists, and has some overlap with the tag I just made. It seems to be a rather vague word.

According to John Lawler, it is also applied to fixed expressions composed of two words without a linking conjunction, which seem a bit like a different phenomenon to me:

Frozen reduplicative phrases like these, especially ones made of nonsense or phonosemantic roots like riffraff or hocus-pocus, are simply called Freezes in the literature, following Cooper and Ross 1975*, the first study to investigate them thoroughly.

Of course, freezes like hocus-pocus don't vary the vowels but the consonants. There is to my knowledge no fancy name for freezes that vary only their vowels.

(crisscross, dillydally, riffraff, etc)

  • One reason why I don't feel "freezes" is quite right is because not all ordered lists have become conventionalized to the same degree. "Freeze" seems to imply a high level of fixedness, to the point where the reverse order would be felt to be almost ungrammatical: this doesn't seem to be the case in my opinion for all of the questions dealing with this subject.
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 20:15
  • 1
    'freezes' sounds really off. How about the alternative 'frozen phrase'? But that could be for any idiom.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 22:44

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