I remarked the last little while ago on the phenomenon of English speakers who try so hard to get their French right that they go full circle and end up getting it wrong again.
This is not the same as when advertisers simply make up foreign-looking stuff, such as Häagen-Dazs or Yoplait. No– I'm interested in cases where a genuine and sincere effort to apply a known rule, and even to honor exceptions to that rule, bumps into a wall of exceptions to the exceptions to that rule.
Last time, the issue was terminal consonants that by all rights ought to be silent in French but aren't. This time? Word order….
In general, the rule is that a French adjective follows the noun that it modifies (and agrees with that noun in number and gender). So we have la crème brûlée and le Bichon frisé and les États-Unis. The exception has to do with a small class of frequently used, primal adjectives that express basic qualities (big, small, new, old, good, bad, etc.). Adjectives in this class work the way adjectives do in English; they precede the modified noun. Thus we end up with la grande jatte and la nouvelle année and le petit prince.
Well, today I received a newsletter by email from my favorite wine, beer, and liquor vendor, and its featured column celebrates the arrival of the "Nouveau Beaujolais". Given the rule and the exception described above, it's no wonder that an author seeking to honor both would take "nouveau", which after all belongs to that special class of adjectives that precede rather than follow, and cram it in front of "Beaujolais". Alas, things are not so simple. In addition to the rule and the exception, there's the exception to the exception: sometimes, primal adjectives that normally precede the noun follow it instead, and this is one of those times.
Idiomatically, then, the fact celebrated by lovers of table wine near and far is that le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!
A votre santé!