Sunday, September 23, 2007

Say bye to the hyphen

Bye...hi...hyphen? Geddit? Oh, well.

The new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is out and instead of the usual media articles about all the funny new words included in it (WAGs, yummy mummies and size zero all make an appearance BTW, and there is at least one story about the new words here), the focus has this time been on a tiny little piece of punctuation: the hyphen ("-"). According to an analysis of the new dictionary, hyphens are dropping out of usage. So words that used to be hyphenated such as bumble-bee are now compounded into one single word, while others such as ice-cream and pot-belly are now written as noun phrases e.g. ice cream and pot belly.

As this interesting article on the BBC News Magazine site tells us, the blame is again being laid at the door of email and electronic communication. Others are arguing that the hyphen is not dying our but being re-purposed (or should that be repurposed) as part of emoticons like the smiley :-)

It's not the first time the decline of the hyphen has been noted, as this story in 2003 demonstrates in almost exactly the same terms. And for more detail on the whole story, have a look at The Language Log blog here.

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates

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