NPR Clarification

There are a few things that I didn’t get to discuss on the broadcast. Before I forget them, here they are:

–I do think that it’s a good idea to remove the hyphens in fig-leaf, make-over, leap-frog and pigeon-hole. I never use hyphens in any of these words.

However, I think that the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary’s reasoning is off. They say they removed the hyphens due to internet culture and the fact that most people can’t be bothered to type the hyphens.

I find that to be extremely dangerous.

If we start giving in to the abbreviated style of internet culture, what will stop us from adding “newayz” and “u” to dictionaries?

We cannot give in.

Give in because language has naturally evolved. Even before the internet, hyphens weren’t commonplace in the aforementioned words.

–Also, though I’m an AP Style girl at heart, I don’t use the word e-mail. I think that we’re at the point where we no longer need the e and hyphen to clarify that this is mail sent electronically. Email has stood the test of time.

–Also, halfway through the broadcast, I caught myself in a “you know.” AHHHH!!!! After that, I tried to speak better than last time, using fewer “you knows” and “likes.” I have a feeling that I sucked at that. I also ended at least one sentence with a preposition.

Also, I was completely caught off guard when she asked me about words that used to use hyphens but no longer do besides today and tomorrow. I had seconds to think of a response and couldn’t think of anything! (Now I know that goodbye would have worked.)

What do you think?

Please be kinder than last time. Writing is easy — speaking with perfect grammar while on live radio is hard!

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11 responses to “NPR Clarification

  1. How do you write them, then? Because I can see “makeover,” “leapfrog” and “pigeonhole” as one word each (so can Firefox’s spell checker, by the way,” but “fig leaf” is definitely two to me.

    I agree about not giving into the Internet style of writing if it is simply accommodating people who have no time to type properly, but I’m actually a huge proponent, like you, of using “email” as a single word. Similarly, website should become lowercase and one word, contrary to what AP says.

  2. Internet style, for writing, is the downfall of literacy! Soon we’ll all be talking and writing like that beauty queen who thought education should help “the Iraq” and “such as South Africa nations.” God help us all!!

  3. I was under the impression that we essentially use hyphens as way of familiarizing ourselves with a future compound word. We transition combinations of words in with hyphens. Once we’re comfortable with them, we can accept them as one word proper.

    The last thing honest-to-God English should be doing is taking its developmental cues from the Internet. This cannot happen.

  4. Whew! It’s good to see some nice comments. I was afraid of a shitstorm like last time.

    I write the words just like you do, Jeff:
    –makeover
    –leapfrog
    –pigeonhole
    –fig leaf

    For now, I’m using Web site and Internet, like the AP dictates, but I think that if I give in, I should give in all the way: email, website, internet.

  5. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem this NPR interview reached as many people as the last one.

  6. Internet culture is destroying the language! Nocens lingua delenda est is an age-old cry, you know.

    And I wonder, the “perfect grammar” you write and try to speak – what specific genre/register/dialect/social stratum are you shooting for? Y’know, for some, “y’know” would be exactly correct…

  7. I don’t trust any of your advice Grammar Vanadal, because you are erratic and arrogant.

    When a style manual had advice you agree with, you take it and use it. When you don’t like it, you just ignore it and claim your opinion to be correct.

    You talk about “giving in” to AP style, like you are above using it. But then sometimes, you cite it like it is the correct usage.

    You need to do three things:
    1)Make up your mind – you either agree with the manuals or don’t.
    2)Take a linguistics class so you can sound like you know what you are talking about.
    3)Get a different hobby. Griping about grammar isn’t helpful, because your notion of grammar is narrow and ignores many, many aspects of how languages work and how they change.

  8. Kate, you’re really over-simplifying the reasoning, method, research, and analysis of the OED folks. Be more rigorous in your own reasoning, research, method, and analysis when you go around making pronouncements like the ones in this post.

  9. Every day, a compound word (consisting of two separate words so closely associated that they constitute a single concept) moves from the “open compound” category (“spelled open”) into the “hyphenated compounds”. Every year or so the latest edition of your Style Guide records all such transitions, driven, it sould seem, by growing familiarity. The same guide records the movement out of “hyphenated” into “closed” (spelled as one word, as Email). The movement is never in the opposite direction. Nowadays more words move from “open” directly into “closed” than move from “open” to “hyphenated”, in accordance with a half-century-long trend away from using hyphens (which the Internet accelerates). But I should have expected to see as careful a usagist as you spell “shit storm” open — unless in your milieu it is a techical term (or a recurring hazard).

  10. Actually, Kate, ending a sentence with a preposition is something that Latin scholars thought one shouldn’t do in English, simply because it’s impossible to do so in Latin.

    There’s no reason not to do it in English, and it often serves to keep relations clearer than they would otherwise be. (Churchill wittily illustrated in his description of adopting the rule in English as the “sort of nonsense up with which I shall not put”.)

    So you’re in good company.

  11. Dictionaries describe common usage. This isn’t dangerous, it’s rational. The idea that language change equals decay has been repeated every generation since the 1800s. It it was true, how can we still be communicating?

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