Overall, hyphen looks like a minus
By CHARLES McGRATH
The New York Times
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the scaled-down, two-volume version of the mammoth 20-volume OED, just got a little shorter.
With the dispatch of a waiter flicking away flyspecks, the editor, Angus Stevenson, eliminated some 16,000 hyphens from the sixth edition, published last month. "People are not confident about using hyphens anymore," he said. "They're not really sure what they're for."
Flyspecks? Are these the new crumb? What kind of restaurants does Charles McGrath go to, that fly feces would adorn the tables?
We agree that hyphenating words like bumblebee is unpleasantly persnickety. And to insist on hyphenated distinctions between air conditioners and the air-conditioning they do is probably a sign of an overly uptight mind.
Still. Hyphens are elegant, necessary, and often quite fun. We can't say the same for fly poop.