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I'm confused choosing between "heavy loud" and "loud heavy". Example:

  1. They are a loud heavy metal band.
  2. They are a heavy loud metal band.

Which one is correct, and why?

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    Both loud and heavy metal are adjectives. They are a loud, heavy metal band. A comma makes your sentence readable.
    – EllieK
    Nov 8, 2022 at 15:03
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    I disagree with the preceding comment. It's not remotely idiomatic to introduce a comma (pause in speech) between the two leading adjectives here. Nov 8, 2022 at 15:06
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    @FumbleFingers - On general principal I would agree but this sentence is confusing without the comma. Inclusion is clarifying not confusing. It's not a pause in speech. It's an adjective/list separator.
    – EllieK
    Nov 8, 2022 at 15:07
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    @EllieK-Don'tsupporther: I might just about accept the possibility of introducing commas/pauses after both adjectives. But that would only be when they're in the "unusual" sequence heavy + loud (in the normal sequence you'd never break the established collocation heavy metal). It would be incredibly clumsy to stress the collocation metal band in close proximity to the word heavy whilst seeking to prevent your audience / readers thinking about heavy metal. That's tthe only meaningful effect I can see if you add two pauses, and one pause is always "weird". Nov 8, 2022 at 15:25
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    "commas are only used to reflect pauses in speech" This is quite wrong in my view. Commas and other punctuation have syntactic meaning separate from any pause or infliction in speech. Nov 8, 2022 at 22:28

1 Answer 1

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The term "Heavy metal" is the name of a specific genre of music. See the Wikipedia article. A "heavy metal band" is a band that plays such music exclusively or primarily. A "loud heavy metal band" is a band that plays such music, and does so loudly. A "heavy loud metal band" would not be a commonly used phrase, and has no obvious meaning.

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    @EllieK Yes, one could speak of as "loud metal band". The now-linked Wikipedia article mentions this use of "metal" alone for "heavy metal". But I think omitting "heavy" from the name of the genre, and then adding it back as a modifier is an unlikely usage, because it would be confusing. Nov 8, 2022 at 15:10
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    Yes, of course. But when one starts with a confusing sentence, one cannot make it confusing.
    – EllieK
    Nov 8, 2022 at 15:12
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    @HồDuyLợi "Heavy metal" has to stay together because it's the name of the genre. You can't use the normal adjective ordering rules here.
    – MJD
    Nov 9, 2022 at 5:31
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    @HồDuyLợi I imagine "loud" is a measurement adjective, just like "heavy", therefore there is no obvious order between the two. "A loud, heavy alarm clock" and "A heavy, loud alarm clock" should both be fine (even if we tend not to mix sound and physical adjectives). But this does not apply when it comes to "heavy metal", which is a single term ("heavy" applies to "metal", not "band", while "loud" applies to "band", not "metal").
    – NotThatGuy
    Nov 9, 2022 at 14:26
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    @HồDuyLợi Tom Scott did a short video about "Adjectival Order" a few years ago that you might find interesting, but suffice to say that adjective ordering is something that english speakers do largely by instinct. We all know that it's "a big red ball", but never "a red big ball", but we can't exactly explain why it is that way. Linguists certainly try to construct rule sets to describe it, but most native speakers don't ever think about it and couldn't explain what the rules are if asked -- it's just how we build sentences. Nov 9, 2022 at 20:54

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