the preferred rhythm in to pair words of size 1 and 2 connected with 'and' appears to be 1-2 (salt and pepper, death and taxes, brick and mortar, bed and breakfast, Tom and Jerry, Rick and Morty).

but iirc airplane people ask if you want "coffee or tea?", 2-1 🤔 I can't intuit, not being a native, but I feel like an and-statement would still be "tea and coffee".

I wonder if what changes it is the question intonation, the 'or', or pragmatic fronting of 'coffee'.

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@melissaboiko i wonder if they found that they ran out of coffee too quickly if they asked "tea or coffee?" but that just switching the word order subtly jarred people into thinking about it?

@thamesynne @melissaboiko yeah "tea or coffee" sounds more natural, also that reminds of a trick my parents did with me when I was just learning to talk cos they realised I always repeated the second thing when asked "would you like x or y" so they started asking me maths questions like "is 2 plus 2, 5 or 4?" and I'd say "four!" and so my grandparents were amazed till they started doing it and didn't make the answer the second option 😂

@melissaboiko "coffee or tea" sounds more USian to me, because coffee is the default and tea is for weirdos and foreigners. So asking this way feels almost like a yes/no question about coffee and then adding the "unless you want tea?!"

@melissaboiko Going out on a limb here but I think it being a question makes "coffee or tea?" work better? The others feel rhythmically stable, which works well with a completed thing like "salt and pepper", but the rhythmic tension makes sense with the suspended moment of the interaction created by the question: it's rhythmically unresolved because questions are unresolved until they're answered.

I also don't think it's why people phrase it that way - like @error_1202 said, USians assume coffee is the default hot caffeinated drink and tea the "if you don't like coffee" alternative - but the way the rhythm works with the feeling might make it more striking, which makes it more memorable, which makes it more said.

- Packmantis 🦗

@packbat @error_1202 yeah this is what I meant – either fronting coffee (cause it's the 1st choice), or something in interrogative intonation. 'Morty or Rick?', 'pepper or salt?' sound natural to me, but then again my language has no interrogative movement or preference for 1-2 patterns in statements.

@melissaboiko @error_1202 *nods!*

I think if prosody is a factor, it definitely falls in the "this isn't the reason why it was done, but it might be the reason why it was done more" category of causation ... but yeah, I think the pattern of word divisions and also stresses matters here. A lot of poetry in English is build around regular patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables - "shall I comPARE thee TO a SUMmer's DAY?" - so I think English-as-a-first-language people are sensitized to those patterns and have corresponding expectations.

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@melissaboiko @packbat as a data point, I've heard "Kirk or Picard?" but never "Picard or Kirk?"

otoh the text editor argument seems to be framed as emacs vs vim more than vim vs. emacs, but that might be related to vim's predecessor, vi, being pronounced "vee-aye". (vi being the "default" here as it's the one that's part of the POSIX standard)

@Lioness @melissaboiko "vs." is two syllables, though

*E*macs *VER*sus *VIM*

maybe that's an argument for the poetic meter hypothesis - it ends up alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.

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