Dog fighting? Dog-fighting? Dogfighting?

If you’ve been following the news the past few days, you’ve probably heard about Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s ties to a dogfighting ring. Or is it a dog-fighting ring? Or a dog fighting ring?

The first headline that I read regarding this story on cnn.com read as follows: “NFL star indicted over dog fighting.”

That has to be wrong, I thought. It should either be dogfighting or dog-fighting.

But which one?

If we’re talking about roosters, cockfighting is the correct term, not cock-fighting, and certainly not cock fighting.

For that reason alone, it would seem that dogfighting would be the correct term.

However, one could argue that cockfighting is a much more common term, as it’s the most common form of underground animal fighting. Everyone knows what cockfighting is — it creates an image in your mind of a tiny arena in a basement filled with smoke where men scream, swear and throw money down as the animals attack each other. I think it’s debatable that for that reason, the word should be dog-fighting.

After all, what would you say if it were a different animal?

The detectives uncovered a piranhafighting ring behind the market.

It wasn’t just a church basement: it was home to a criminal koalafighting ring.

Because these words are seldom put together, it makes sense to hyphenate them: piranha-fighting, koala-fighting.

It’s up to us to decide whether it should be dog-fighting or dogfighting.

By now, it seems that cnn.com has decided to go with dogfighting. Following that story, two more headlines have appeared: “Court: Vick to answer to dogfighting charges July 26″ and “Dogfighting a booming business, experts say.”

I’m going to side with CNN on this one, and say that dogfighting is the correct term. Because of this, it’s clear that the first headline, which is still on the site, is incongruent with the others and needs to be changed.

So, which term do YOU think is correct?

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6 responses to “Dog fighting? Dog-fighting? Dogfighting?

  1. I use “dogfighting”, because a “dog-fighting ring” would be a ring that fights dogs, if I’m not mistaken.

  2. I believe military air battles are known as “Dogfighting” (one word) so, I would say a fight between actual dogs could be referred to as “Dog-fighting” to clarify and differentiate. Granted, it wouldn’t be the first time for a word to have one spelling with different meanings, but perhaps we can take a stand and separate one from the other. For the record, I think that it is supposed to be one word.

  3. This post does not conform to the AP Style Guide. Proceed at your own risk

    This one, I admit, is a puzzle. Ideologically, I am in favor of dog-fighting on the grounds that I would hope it is as unthinkable as kola-fighting. Certainly, I prefer kola-fighting over kolafighting.

    Sadly, however, I think I have to go with dogfighting. It is, I think, its own word. Although, our anonymous friend above makes a good case for a distinction between aerial battles and dogs fighting.

    The solution I propose is an end to animal abuse. Then the question of grammar may safely be declared moot.

  4. What is the reason that “dog fighting” as two words makes no sense? Isn’t “dog” simply modifying “fighting” so that the reader knows what kind of fighting is being discussed (unless these two adjectives modify a noun, which would require a hyphen for clarity)? This is like “fly fishing” or “jet skiing,” isn’t it? I have heard that when a phrase becomes really common, it becomes one word, so then maybe “dogfighting” is fine now that it’s so infamous, but maybe “koala fighting” is best until it becomes a little more known?

  5. I’m still undecided on this issue, too. Though, much like your frustration with businesses that neglect good punctuation, doesn’t it thoroughly annoy you when a famous news company like CNN can’t just decide the correct form from the beginning and stick with it? That peeves me.

  6. You know, Heather, it does bother me! It bothers me a lot. I am definitely not giving CNN.com a free pass.

    I guess I didn’t articulate that clearly enough.

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