Sunday, September 23, 2007

Strange Death of the Hyphen

It appears that English is bein expunged of the hyphen:

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.

All of which strikes me as a bit odd actually. When I write for a newspaper the editors (pbut) always seem to put more hyphens in than I did. And noticeably fewer commas. All of which is rather disconcerting, after I've plowed through such a piece innumerable times to make sure that I've got my clauses all hte right way around.

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