Read on the internet: "Voters rejected the craven, crass and mafioso tactics of [name withheld because this is a question about grammar, not politics]."

Sounds odd to me, because craven and crass are adjectives while mafioso is a noun. I would have said "the craven and crass mafioso tactics" or "the craven, crass mafioso tactics." Am I right?

  • 1
    It is either an attributive-noun usage or ( I don't know your source) a possible misuse of the Italian 'mafioso' where it is both a adjective and a noun.
    – user66974
    Nov 5, 2014 at 7:29
  • @Josh61 I thought mafioso was an attributive noun, and I was wondering if attributive nouns could be used in parallel with adjectives. You will meet a tall, dark, and Harvard man? We serve hot, cold, and cabbage soup?
    – bof
    Nov 5, 2014 at 7:55
  • The author may have had no intention of using a literary technique -- it appears serious writing. Apparently, the three attributes are exactly what are relevant in the situation and what the author wanted to list. Not every sentence need be poetical or flowery speech.
    – Kris
    Nov 5, 2014 at 14:57
  • 7
    "Craven" and "mafioso" make a bit of an odd couple, too, don't they? "If you don't pay the loan back by Friday at noon, I'm gonna have Mikey "the Fist" come over and whimper at you."
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 14, 2015 at 4:53
  • It sounds just fine. It doesn't sound very attributive, more like an adjective. But your example of 'tall,dark,Harvard' does have the feeling of zeugma
    – Mitch
    May 4, 2015 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


The failure of parallelism in the original form is minor; the syntax and semantics work ok. Grammar does not offer good reason for your correction (aside from quibbles about using noun mafioso adjectively).

However, there is a failure of alliteration, or of alliterative parallelism, given two words beginning with cr followed by one with ma. Perhaps a third cr word, such as crude or cruel, could have been used in place of mafioso while still suggesting heavy-handed or ruthless gang-like behavior.

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