September 21, 2007

Won’t somebody think of the hyphens?

Posted in Language at 10:07 am by The Lizard Queen

Interesting (to me, anyway) little tidbit from Yahoo — Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on:

LONDON (Reuters) – About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And if you’ve got a problem, don’t be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books.

“People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they’re not really sure what they are for,” said Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.

I have to confess that that last paragraph applies to me.  I’m not as well-versed in hyphen placement as I could be, and I’m certainly not confident on the subject.

Another factor in the hyphen’s demise is designers’ distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words.

“Printed writing is very much design-led these days in adverts and Web sites, and people feel that hyphens mess up the look of a nice bit of typography,” he said. “The hyphen is seen as messy looking and old-fashioned.”

I’m trying to figure out if Stevenson is trying to be ironic in that last paragraph, given “design-led” and “old-fashioned.”  Either way, it amuses me.

There are lists of the changed words in the linked article, if you’re curious.  Or grammar-driven, if you will.  🙂


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