The end of the hyphen?

A New York Times article describes how the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary eliminated about 16,000 hyphens for its sixth edition.

The Times quotes the dictionary editor, Angus Stevenson, as saying: "People are not confident about using hyphens anymore. They're not really sure what they're used for."

Some of the examples are strange (ice cream). Others make sense (cell-phone).

It does seem that more compound words are skipping through the hyphenated stage quicker to become one word (see post), and I could imagine the frustration of trying to update a dictionary and keep it even somewhat up to date.

There will always be hyphen sticklers (I might fall into this category at times) and those who are more lenient with the little guys, but doing away with the mark entirely would be a calamity. (Like I said, I tend to like hyphens.)


Zach Everson said...

Hyphens are for nouns in transition. The two words appear together enough that their relationship needs to be formalized, but we aren't comfortable creating a compound word yet.

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