Hyphenated Words

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Hyphenated Words

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jun 13, 2009, 10:14pm

Does anyone else share my difficulty regarding some words that were once always(?) hyphenated but now regularly appear un-hyphed?

For example: 'coworkers' and 'cooperation'.

I simply cannot but see them as (approximately) 'cow-orkers' and 'coop-eration'. It often makes for some interesting flights of fancy.

Are their other similar examples?

jun 13, 2009, 11:33pm

I remember sitting in a grade school classroom in the '50's learning to spell cooperate among others. We had a choice of a hyphen or a diaresis over the second o. I was caught once by gunshy, and I had a long problem with misled.


jun 14, 2009, 12:24am

How about e-mail or email?

jun 14, 2009, 1:43am

One classic example is the debate about ice-cream (with or without hyphen, or as one word). Serious lexicographers have differed.

Personally I prefer the unhyphenated forms. Not for any thought-out linguistic reasons, but just because I like the more concentrated effect.

Redigeret: jun 14, 2009, 2:47am

Isn't it the case that in all the examples above it's a case of two separate words being used in conjunction so commonly that they first become hyphenated and then, with even more use, morph into one word? Seems like a natural progression for the English language; I'm surprised that 'serious lexicographers' find it worth differing about. The process does result in some awkward unions when it comes to pronunciation though.

>2 Mr.Durick: rdurick.... I see what you mean about gunshy. Don't think I've ever encountered that one, and I have to admit that I still read misled as 'mizzled'.

>3 PhaedraB: PhaedraB... For those of us ahead of the pack I think it has to be email.

jun 14, 2009, 3:08pm

I admit to being inconsistent on this question, but one hyphenation rule I use regularly is to hyphenate combinations of words used as a modifier for a following noun. I prefer, for instance, "high-school student" to high school student, which is, nowadays, ambiguous.

jun 14, 2009, 5:36pm

I just ran across this hyphen problem with LT Touchstones: RailTrails New England. If I 'add' the book with a hyphen I get another (wrong) book without the alternative list: Rail-Trails New England. So even LT is quirky.

jun 15, 2009, 11:13am

>6 erilarlo:

The chapter on hyphens in Eats, Shoots and Leaves (which is called, I think, "A Little Used Mark") cites the examples of the "little used car", the "pickled herring merchant" and the "hundred odd members of Parlaiment" (or, in my case, Congress). All three fall into the same category.

I also like the examples for the related problem illustrated by "deice" and "shelllike" ("de-ice" and "shell-like", respectively).

jun 15, 2009, 1:51pm

Ha! I like the triple unhyphenated (un-hyphenated) l's.

I'm actually trying to work out how to teach hyphenation to my high school students as I am forever inserting hyphens in adjectives that precede nouns (much-needed haircut, long-anticipated anniversary).

When it comes to language use, I cherish clarity and specificity. That, after all, is what punctuation in particular is supposed to serve?

jun 15, 2009, 4:46pm

>9 bridgitshearth:
I suggest you read (and possibly have your high-schoolers read) Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

You might also consider Mind the Gaffe!, which is more of a general writing guide: its focus is more on things like spelling and usage. R. L. Trask was (he died in 2004) an American who spent most of his career in England, so there's plenty on the differences between the British and American forms of the language. There are two entries that are particularly good entries which are funny mostly for appearing together alphabetically. They are knickers*, followed by knock up**.

* US: a certain kind of funny pants; UK: what we call "panties"
** UK: to knock on someone's door; US: to get someone pregnant

Redigeret: jun 19, 2009, 1:44am

I generally umlaut it - coöperate, reëxplain. This is a recent development, though, I think probably from seeing it in books I've been reading (Trollope? Somebody Victorian, it'd have to be).

I'll hyphenate if it doesn't look right without it. In fact sometimes I tend towards overhyphenation-that-turns-into-entire- sentences-worth-of-hyphenated-word.

But when I'm writing short stories I'm more likely to writeabunchofwordstogether, for the sake of flow, than hyphenate, which breaks the flow.

jul 4, 2009, 5:35pm

'Gunshy' and 'misled' are great examples. Add miniseries and barroom.

I'm not a fan of Eats, Shoots and Leaves (which has an unsparkling style and is no fun to read) but I do like She Literally Exploded, which lists a lot of pet peeves, dictionary style.

Redigeret: jul 4, 2009, 5:59pm

How about sundried tomatoes? >12 messpots: messpots... I always chuckle when I see that title (She Literally Exploded); must read it soon. Barroom's pretty good too - I just cannot help but put the stress on the last syllable. Barroom! She literally exploded!

Redigeret: jul 4, 2009, 6:04pm

(You people might be interested in the new Pedants' Corner group just started by Booksloth.)

jul 5, 2009, 5:34am

>14 MyopicBookworm:

Excellent initiative by booksloth, although one day, being identified as a pedant may lead to 'burning at the steak'!

jul 5, 2009, 12:04pm


I'll hope that becomes rare.

jul 7, 2009, 5:15pm

>16 PhaedraB:

Well done!