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The intoxication of hyphenation

That tiny little dash can really turn things in new and comical directions

Posted: August 24, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Beware the War Mups.

 

Though I was sorely tempted to continue with malapropisms this week (unintentional use of the wrong word), as there are so many of them popping up out there all the time, I will limit myself to the one I came across that tempted me.

The sentence I read was: “Our organization follows these three tenants ....” Here, the intended word was tenets (creed, doctrine, code of belief). But, in using tenants, the sentence created a mental image of an entire organization stalking three unfortunate people who innocently rented rooms in the back of the building.

How scary would that be, right — especially if they all followed you to the bathroom?

No, no more malapropisms for now.

Today we will put the magnifying glass to “soft” hyphenation — specifically the arbitrary way computer text programs break up words that continue from one line to another.

Most of the time, the hyphenation introduced occurs where it should, between appropriate syllables in the word. But every now and then, the program makes its own executive decision. And we all know what happens when the inmates run the asylum.

Now, the example that was first brought to my attention, and which motivated this discussion, was this: The word “warmups” started on one line in a story, and had to break to continue onto the next line.

FYI, AP Style allows warmups to be one, unhyphenated word, which may have confused the final design program that had to work with it — but no excuses.

Logically, and syllable-wise, warmups should break into “warm-” on the first line and “ups” on the second. However, that program, left to its own devices, chose to make it “war-” “mups,” which made me chuckle and brought to mind visions of killer Muppets sent from outer space to destroy all life on Earth.

Here are some other program-generated hyphenations that alter the intent in intoxicatingly funny ways:

Manslaughter becomes mans-laughter.

Legend becomes leg-end.

Restrain becomes rest-rain.

Pronouncement is pronoun-cement.

Brainscanner becomes brains-canner.

Surgeon becomes surge-on.

Generations becomes gene-rations.

Notables becomes not-ables.

Managing becomes man-aging.

Malediction becomes male-diction (otherwise known as cussing).

Dormant becomes dorm-ant.

Yellow becomes yell-ow.

Weeknight becomes wee-knight.

And therapist becomes the-rapist.

Now, of course, one couldn’t leave this “hyphenation” topic without mentioning the manually-created engagement and wedding announcement titles that show up in the newspaper. I mean, Jay Leno mines this gold on his show all the time.

Consider the Moore-Bacon wedding. I’ll bet the reception had a buffet.

Then there is the Dunnam-Favors pairing. After so many favors, anything less than a wedding would not be a sufficient reward.

I saw an announcement for a Traylor-Hooker union. I imagine this “wedding” might be repeated nightly.

On the other hand, there’s a chance the Little-Gay pairing could be in trouble from the start.

A Gowen-Geter wedding sounds like the Hatfields may plan to take her from the McCoys — as does the Hunt-Kapture engagement.

I hear the Hardy-Harr reception was a lot of laughs, but no one really knows where the Wendt-Adaways traveled for their honeymoon.

And, finally, I’d be very careful about attending the Looney-Warde union. You might have to stay 72 hours or more.

As I outlined separately in my note: "Next week we become Connect SCV," this will be the last issue of Escape. My Don’t Take Me Seriously columns will now be found in Connect SCV, which comes to you every Wednesday. So please follow me there, because this world will not improve unless we all stay on task.

Comment at jwalker@the-signal.com or at http://Twitter.com/DontSeriously.

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