Hyphens: A Rant (So To Speak)
Although Jen Doll calls her piece a “rant,” it really isn’t one. It’s rare that a mass-market publication like The Atlantic prints a thoughtful article that effectively deals with the niceties and subtleties of punctuation, but this one on the hyphen is just that. Judging from my students’ essays, the hyphen, along with its cousin the dash, is probably the most misused punctuation mark, and Ms Doll’s article addresses the proper usage with understated wit and charm. If only more articles about pet peeves were like this one.
Plus, I learned something from this article. I had no idea that that an en dash was the proper mark to use in the adjective pre–Civil War. It seems, at least according to Chicago, that an en dash is used instead of hyphen when linking an open compound (i. e., Civil War) with another adjective or prefix.
[Tip o’ the Hat to Andrew Sullivan]
Ben Zimmer has a nice piece in today’s Boston Globe on how writer Tony Kushner came up with the authentic language used in Spielberg’s Lincoln.
OED Editing Drama
There’s nothing like the excitement generated by a good story about dictionary editing gone wild.
The Guardian ran this piece on Monday about the OED “covertly” deleting words because they came from sources outside England.
The only problem is, that it doesn’t seem to be true. Yes, the dictionary deleted words, and these were disproportionately words from non-UK varieties of English, but there was nothing covert about it. The dictionary clearly explained its editorial policy and under what circumstances words would be struck from the dictionary. The words weren’t deleted because they were foreignisms, but because the evidence for their use was not substantive enough. At the same time, the editors were adding many more foreignisms that were better researched and clearly established. When dealing with a print dictionary, there is only so much room and such editorial decisions need to be made. Furthermore, the book on which The Guardian bases its article apparently does not make the claims the newspaper says it does.
Jesse Sheidlower has a response on the New Yorker’s blog.
AP on Homophobia
The Associated Press Stylebook, which is something of the standard setter among American journalists, has come out discouraging the use of the word homophobia (and Islamophobia as well):
Read the rest of the article...
An irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness. Examples: acrophobia, a fear of heights, and claustrophobia, a fear of being in small, enclosed spaces. Do not use in political or social contexts: homophobia, Islamophobia.
Best Word Ever
At least according to Ted McCragg and his blog Questionable Skills. McCragg conducted an unscientific competition between words organized into brackets like the NCAA basketball championship. The others in the final four were gherkin, kerfuffle, and hornswoggle.
You can read more about the competition in The Atlantic.
[All this transpired over two months ago, but I missed it. Hat tip to David A. Daniel on ADS-L for bringing it to my attention.]
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton