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While reading Swift's "A Description of a City Shower" (1710) I met the following two lines:

The Templar spruce, while every spout’s abroach,

Stays till ’tis fair, yet seems to call a coach.

It is fairly clear from the context that these lines describe a dapper law student(or a lawyer?) caught in a sudden shower.

What is less clear, however, is the part of speech the word "spruce" belongs to here. From the word order it seems to be a noun, yet no dictionary I have checked, not even OED, lists that word as such in the sense of someone neatly dressed.

So what part of speech is it? Is it a postpositive adjective? (If so, was it used for the sake of poetic fluidity, or was it a common grammatical feature back then?) Was the word turned into a noun by the potent magic of poetry?

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    It's an adjective, probably placed after the noun for reasons of poetic style. – Kate Bunting Feb 15 '17 at 14:53
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Templar is a noun; spruce would be an adjective describing it (it has been around since the sixteenth century, so would be apt for a Swiftian text)

Definition of spruce: neat or smart in appearance : trim.

Sometimes we put an adjective after the noun for effect, or rhyming purposes. Here's one I made earlier: "The Templar fat, did eat my cat..."

  • Almost a good answer. You really need to cite and link your references; e.g., one or more dictionary citations, a Google Ngram, etc. – Mark Hubbard Feb 15 '17 at 16:22
  • I don't have any specific refs per se for this particular query. I'm a polyglot native English speaker, former TEFL trainer and currently a full-time ES-EN translator. The entirety of my response is based on my own knowledge, acquired over decades. – user218195 Apr 18 '17 at 9:23

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