A British former player

A newspaper report about the British tennis player Emma Raducanu says she is appointing a new coach, or in fact reappointing one of her several former coaches. The report describes the coach as a ‘British former player’. Is that the right order for those 2 adjectives?

At first this sequencing seemed odd to me. If someone talks about a person who used to play for England’s national cricket team, they would describe the person as a ‘former England cricketer’. But the noun ‘England’ is not referring to the former player’s nationality, it is identifying the team the player used to play for.

Similarly, you would probably describe the tennis player Andy Murray as a former British number one. But there again, the adjective ‘British’ isn’t being used to refer to Murray’s nationality, it refers to the ranking that he used to top.

Despite my initial doubts, I think the newspaper got it right. The re-appointed coach is not someone who was once both British and a player. He is a British [former player]. He is no longer a player, but he is still British.   

2 comments

  1. The rules for the placement of multiple adjectives in English are extremely complicated, although known unconsciously to all native speakers:
    1. Opinion or judgement — beautiful, ugly, easy, fast, interesting
    2. Size — small, tall, short, big
    3. Age — young, old, new, historic, ancient
    4. Shape — round, square, rectangular
    5. Colour — red, black, green, purple
    6. Nationality — French, Asian, American, Canadian, Japanese
    7. Material — wooden, metallic, plastic, glass, paper
    8. Purpose or Qualifier — foldout sofa, fishing boat, racing car
    So: the “beautiful long curved old red Italian steel racing car”.
    It is said that there is only one mistake in English in all of Joseph Conrad’s writings, when, in “Lord Jim”, he refers to a “black long shadow” instead of a “long black shadow”.

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