In Honor of Independence Day

Happy Independence Day, everyone! In honor of our country’s birthday, I have a thematically appropriate grammatical error.

From today:

Joey Chestnut Wins Hot Dog Eating Contest
By Stephen M. Silverman

At Wednesday’s midday match, the 23-year-old civil-engineering student beat six-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi, 29, of Japan, by downing a record-breaking 66 dogs. Kobayashi ate 63 dogs.

In the final 120 seconds of the 12-minute competition the competitors appeared to be an adrenaline surging jaw-to-jaw tie – until Chestnut won.


Last time I checked, it was civil engineering. That hyphen is entirely unnecessary.

Also, there should be a comma after competition in the second paragraph.

Also, take a look at the title. It should be Hot Dog-Eating Contest, not Hot Dog Eating Contest. It would also be appropriate to use this rule when discussing cud-chewing contests or midget-tossing competitions. Exceptions would be made for base jumping competitions or bungee jumping finals, as base jumping and bungee jumping are entities unto themselves, while hot dog eating isn’t well-known enough to be its own entity.

Stephen M. Silverman, I know that it was probably your editor who made the mistake with the headline — it’s rare that a writer gets to write his or her own headlines. But for the rest of the mistakes, pay attention! You’re really going to need to step up.

Happy Fourth! I hope you have a fantastic Pops-listening, fireworks-watching, hot dog-eating evening of fun!


One response to “In Honor of Independence Day

  1. Err, well, an argument could be made for “civil-engineering.” Yes, there is a well-known specialty called “civil engineering,” but in the absence of a hyphen when the term is being used as a compound modifier, how do we know that Mr. Chestnut is not simply being praised for his nice manners? 😉

    Four years ago, a writer for the newsletter of a military base near Washington, DC, wrote a wonderful piece about the use, or more often the misuse, of hyphens. My favorite line: “This makes them high-performance weapons (not ‘high performance weapons,’ which are performance weapons that have smoked Maui Wowie).”

    I not only bookmarked it, I’ve saved the text on my hard drive and beaten several hyphen-misusing miscreants over the head with it. The essay is still available on the Web; see

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