A Moment of Silence for Dead Hyphens

I quite admire the hyphen, it’s one of my favorite forms of punctuation. It allows me to jockey-together my own grammar and re-spelling, aids in tmesis (that’s a-whole-nother post), and prevents confusion when dealing with ambiguous phrases.

The humble hyphen even has its own mascot: Hyphen-Boy. Here is Hyphen-Boy standing up for the rights of smart children to play in the streets while not offending the developmentally challenged by emphasizing the lack of hyphen between slow and children. Sure, a comma would have sufficed, but the presence of a comma doesn’t say nearly as much as the absence of a hyphen. And in case you didn’t know, the Illuminati have declared a global moratorium on using any obvious punctuation on road signs, especially commas and hyphens. So Hyphen boy gets the job done under the nose of the punctuation-hating Illuminati.

The whole point of grammar is to avoid confusion by clarifying language. Without the hyphen, readers might not know if you’re discussing an apex predator with a taste for human-stuffed kayak or an impatient SCUBA diver with a penchant for the freshest sushi.
It’d be quite embarrassing if you heard about a baby causing blackout on the hyphen-inhibited radio, causing you to rush home to your bored and waiting spouse with a bottle of cheap wine and breath freshener, only to be crushed to death on the way by a rampaging toddler with a Godzilla complex.

Without hyphens, how can you be utterly condescending to someone over the Internet if you can’t s-p-e-l-l it out for them in a mock pedantic tone? How can all you America-hating P.C. wack-jobs declare your partial-succession by being hyphenated-Americans without over-using the hyphen? And what would happen to daytime faux-interest shows like Jerry Springer and Montel Williams without near-death experiences (near death experiences are not nearly as televisable) and out-of-body experiences (if you’re out of bodies, you must be in a pretty disturbing business)?

You can imagine my concern when I read the headline, “Thousands of hyphens parish as English marches on.” How dare they attack the hyphen. What vile force is corrupting English’s sacred grammar?

Well, it turns out that the dead hyphens were justifiable homicides and nothing to be too concerned over. I doubt that there will be much protest or any “save the hyphen” sit-ins by the Grammar Nazis. It seems that the dictionary was finally catching up with modernity and admitting that there never should have been a hyphen between fig and leaf, ice and cream, test and tube. Going even further, the dictionary gurus decided once and for all to join jam with log, frog with leap, and baby with cry. It’s about time.

Amicably divorced from their hyphens:
fig leaf, hobby horse, ice cream, pin money, pot belly, test tube, water bed

Joined in hyphen-less holy unions for as long as they both shall live:
bumblebee, chickpea, crybaby, leapfrog, logjam, lowlife, pigeonhole, touchline, waterborne

Don’t fear, the attack is only on the hyphen, not its more sophisticated brother the dash, so when the occasion calls for a divagation–which happens quite often given my brain’s propensity to draw in obtuse connections to inform my current rant–I won’t find the price at the dash-pump too restrictive.

If you get the itch to give me a B- for my grammar writing, I suggest you follow my lead and ban the nerdy cousin of the hyphen, the minus, from ever following the letters A, B, C, D, or F. With all the extra minuses that will be caused by such a plan, I suggest that we double them up into pluses and apply them liberally to said letters.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.