The hyphen, it seems, divides just as much as it connects. This week we take a look at two stories of hyphenation — both literal and metaphorical — gone wrong.
Subscribers to The Times may have come across a June 22nd article by Rose Wild entitled “Rude hyphens are not the work of saboteurs”. Wild’s article promises much to the punctuation-phile:
About seven years ago the style editor of The Times assured readers that those old favourites, the Arse- nal, mans- laughter and the- rapist, were about to disappear from our pages. Thanks to some smart work on the IT front, a hyphenation dictionary embedded in the system would henceforth impose immaculate logic on the splitting of words, when such a thing was needed.
Sadly, Rupert Murdoch’s paywall prevents me from learning more about these scandalous bithorpes and their alleged reappearance in The Times’ tablet edition. Have Shady Characters readers come across these (or any other) failures of automatic hyphenation? Leave your stories in the comments below!<
Also on the hyphen front, Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India came close to derailment at the hands of an implied hyphen. As The Telegraph of Calcutta reports, prior to the presidency of George W. Bush, US policy towards India “was known as ‘hyphenation’: everything to do with India was India-Pakistan, like Af-Pak, denoting Afghanistan-Pakistan, not a standalone relationship with either country.”
George W. Bush (and subsequently Hilary Clinton) instead pursued separate, bilateral relationships with India and Pakistan, but the perception within Indian diplomatic circles was that with Kerry’s arrival, the maligned hyphen was back in the ascendant. The Telegraph concludes that Kerry has averted disaster by forgoing a scheduled meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, which begs the question: is this the first time that a mark of punctuation has influenced international politics?
Lastly, don’t forget the Shady Characters competition! To enter to win a copy of Hiatus № 1, featuring an article by yours truly, just comment on this post or reply to, retweet or favourite this tweet. Good luck!
Update: …and the competition is closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! I’ll announce the winner in a special blog post tomorrow.