I don't want to lose my pot-belly

  Pesala 14:19 20 Sep 2007

It seems that the OED has done away with over 16,000 hyphenated words: click here

What is the world coming to? No more ice-cream? No more fig-leaves? What will we do without them?

  Forum Editor 14:37 20 Sep 2007

but I'm a realist, and I can see that its days are numbered. I think the art of good writing - or part of it at least - is the ability to make your text have a high readability score. If people find it easy to read what you write you are well on your way - all you have to do then is make it interesting.

On the other hand, I've seen some really fascinating stuff that was so badly written I could hardly bear to unravel it. The hypen can help a great deal, and at times it removes ambiguity. Take Rosemary-leaves for example; written like that there's no dispute, it means leaves that belong to the Rosemary plant. Write 'Rosemary leaves' though, and you might be saying that the girl called Rosemary leaves the room.

These are little things, but they evolved for a reason, and that reason was clarity - the need to ensure that it was possible to write something that had one meaning and one meaning only.

If we lose hyphenated words it isn't the end of the world - many people never use them anyway - but over time, and collectively, these things add up to an erosion of what is the most expressive language in the world.

  amonra 16:01 20 Sep 2007

Itsalmostasbadas someof the textspeak u see on this sight !

  Jim Thing 16:03 20 Sep 2007

"Take Rosemary-leaves for example..."

...or man eating tiger.

  Cymro. 16:09 20 Sep 2007

If we lose hyphenated words it isn't the end of the world - many people never use them anyway -but over time, and collectively, these things add up to an erosion of what is the most expressive language in the world.

Language is an evolving thing always changing all the time. If it was not so then we would all still be speaking English in the same way as they did in Shakespeare's time. The English of Shakespeare is very beautiful but not what we speak today.

It is in much the same way that written English changes. As you say many people never use the hyphen anyway so they must find their writing understandable and acceptable. Standards are changing and not always and in a way we like..

  Earthsea 16:15 20 Sep 2007

Is there a Hyphen Protection Society?

I agree about the 'Rosemary-leaves' example, and I expect it will stay for reasons of clarity, but for something like ice-cream it is redundant so I see no harm in its loss.

And Pesala, you're the only person I've ever noticed using separate hyphen and dash symbols. How do you feel about the loss of the poor old dash? It seems to have been ousted by the hyphen!

  Confab 16:52 20 Sep 2007

When I was about 6 years old I remember being given a wildlife book. One of the pictures in the book was of a hugh spider with a small bird in it’s mouth. The picture was entitled “Bird Eating Spider”. I couldn’t get me head around that title for years!

  Si_L 16:55 20 Sep 2007

I hate hyphens. Remembering which words have them and which don't is just not worth it. In the end, it isn't pronounced any differently, so I'm all for getting rid of the little buggers.

  Pesala 17:13 20 Sep 2007

I don't see hyphenation as a hard-and-fast rule that everyone must follow. In many cases you can suit yourself whether to use it or not, but removing hyphens from so many words in the OED is a big step. That is seen by many as the definitive (correct) version, but I think it is more a matter of personal preference.

I like to use hyphens to separate vowels. To me, cooperation is wrong because it takes a second look to know how to pronounce it. Then most words with prefixes look better with hyphens, especially if the word needs a capital: so un-American, or non-Buddhist, but nonbeliever is not so bad.

  Forum Editor 17:22 20 Sep 2007

I have nothing against evolution, it's a natural process, and I'm all for it. What I was talking about was erosion, not evolution.

Shakespeare's english isn't used today because it isn't eloquent enough - he isn't famous for the language, he's famous for his use of it - there's a difference.

The language we have at our disposal is quite stunning in its complexity and its capabilities. It's like an artist's brush - if you know how to use it you can create something really beautiful. Use it badly and you'll still be understood, but the picture will be crude, and lacking in the rich detail that can be so rewarding to your reader.

As I said earlier, I can see that the hyphen's days are numbered because people just don't want to be bothered with it. That's not evolution at work, it's laziness. People aren't willing to spend a bit of time learning about hyphens, so they pretend they aren't worth retaining.

  Cymro. 18:01 20 Sep 2007

I should have known better than to challenge a professional journalist on the finer points of writing in the English language.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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