This week, there is one punctuation-related news story that towers above all others. In the world of musical name changes, Prince’s adoption in 1993 of an unpronounceable glyph called only “Love Symbol #2” must surely retain the crown for sheer outlandishness, but Jay-Z’s reported un-hyphenation has nevertheless set the music press and mainstream media ablaze.12 It all started on the 18th of July when Billboard editor Joe Levy tweeted:
Breaking: Jay Z has dropped the hyphen from his name, according to his label. I am not kidding. (Wish I was.) Copy editors: take note.3
Within days, the story had been picked up by The Atlantic, Pitchfork Media, and many other respectable news outlets, with The Huffington Post running a tongue-in-cheek “Obituary for Jay-Z’s Hyphen”.456 @JayZsHyphen, a parody Twitter account (“Hey @WuTangClan are you guys hiring?”), appeared the very same day Levy broke the news, while Funny or Die ran a spoof Craigslist advert a few days later (“Hardworking SBL [Straight Black Line] seeking immediate, full or part-time employment [see recent photo between the words ‘part’ and ‘time’].”).78
Was it a slow news day? Certainly, the eagerness with which reporters fell on the story seems rather premature in the light of the fact that the rapper and producer had actually dropped the hyphen — or at least tentatively begun to do so — two years previously. Brian Mansfield’s 19th July article for USA Today, entitled “Jay Z’s missing hyphen? It’s been gone for two years”, rather gave the lie to Joe Levy’s excited, day-old tweet.9 Opening with the line, “This is what happens when newspapers cut back on copy editors”, Mansfield went on to explain that Jay-Z had been credited as “Jay Z” on his 2011 collaboration with Kanye West, and that the hyphen is similarly gone from Magna Carta Holy Grail, his current effort.
Less than two weeks on the furore has more or less burned itself out, with only a few laggards such as CNN bringing up the rear with posts that have rather missed their window of opportunity.10 As much as I love the hyphen and its bithorpe siblings, I can’t help but feel rather unmoved by the whole episode. What do you think? Is this a misplaced storm in a teacup, or a genuinely worthwhile news story?
In other news, David Sudweeks continues his excellent series of posts at the FontShop blog with a new treatise on Whitespace and invisible characters. This post is a little more technical than previous entries, focusing on the ins and outs of Adobe’s InDesign software, but it’s still very much worth a read. Over at the Washington Post, Ron Charles looks at the difficulties that David Gilbert’s new novel, & Sons, is causing Amazon’s search facilities.
Thanks for reading!
- Andy Greene, “The 25 Boldest Career Moves In Rock History: Prince Changes His Name to an Unpronounceable Symbol”, Rolling Stone. ↢
- “Album: Symbol”, Prince Vault. ↢
- Joe Levy, “Breaking: Jay Z Has Dropped the Hyphen from His Name, According to His Label. I Am Not Kidding. (Wish I was.) Copy Editors: Take Note.”, Twitter, 2013. ↢
- Spencer Kornhaber, “Jay-Z Joins To-Day and Ice-Cream in the Hyphen Graveyard”, The Atlantic, July–2013. ↢
- Carrie Battan, “The Artist Formerly Known As Jay-Z Removes Hyphen From His Name”, Pitchfork Media, July–2013. ↢
- Lauren Duca, “An Obituary for Jay-Z’s Hyphen”, The Huffington Post, July–2013. ↢
- Josh Morrissey, “Hey @WuTangClan Are You Guys Hiring?”, Twitter, July–2013. ↢
- Pat O’Brien, “Jay Z’s Hyphen Is Looking for Jobs On Craigslist”, July–2013. ↢
- Brian Mansfield, “Jay Z’s Missing Hyphen? It’s Been Gone for Two Years”, USATODAY.Com, July–2013. ↢
- “JAY Z’s Hyphen Looking for Work”, The Marquee Blog, July–2013. ↢