Natural word ordering

I'm wondering if anyone's found a definite pattern to the way we naturally order words when listing items. While it doesn't work for some pairs, most of the time there's an obvious preference in the order.

Some examples:

  • Always "mom and dad" not "dad and mom"
  • Always "grandma and grandpa" not "grandpa and grandma"
  • Always "cars and trucks" not "trucks and cars"

The presence of a plosive doesn't seem to be the only factor:

  • Always "male and female" not "female and male"
  • Always "good and bad" not "bad and good" (although this example feels less strict)
  • More often "keyboard and mouse" than "mouse and keyboard" (also not super strict)

While there seems to be a general pattern of the plosive-heavy word being placed last, there are those examples which would serve to discredit such a hypothesis. Is there a known rule for this?

  • 2
    This (excellent question) has been answered previously, here and here. Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 17:03


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