Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hope for the Hyphen

The Oxford University Press says reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated:

When a new edition of a dictionary is published, you never know what people are going to pick up on as noteworthy. Last week, when the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary was officially launched, much of the surrounding publicity had to do with the all the brand-new material: the 2,500 new words and phrases and 1,300 new illustrative quotes.

But what’s gotten just as much attention is something that’s missing. The hyphen, that humble piece of connective punctuation, has been removed from about 16,000 compound words appearing in the text of the Shorter. The news has been making the rounds everywhere from the BBC to the Wall Street Journal. “Hyphens are the latest casualty of the internet age,” writes the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on,” a Reuters headline bleakly reads. A satirical paper even warns of a “hyphen-thief” on the loose. But don’t worry, hyphenophiles: the punctuation lives on, even if it’s entering uncertain terrain in the electronic era.

The hyphen has been with us since at least the time of Gutenberg... (Read on)

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