This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Nuts and Bolts: more cavorting hyp-hens.

I'm a long-standing collector of hyp-hens.

No, hyp-hens aren't poultry of any kind, but they're my word for the sort of hyphen that shows that the rest of a word continues on the next line.

You get them a lot in broadsheet newspapers, where the narrow columns of type make hyphenating long words very often una-
voidable.

As far as I know no one has come up with any rules for the use of hyp-hens, but there are two things to bear in mind: firstly, don't confuse your reader by changing the pronunciation of the word between the front part of the word and its rear portion (as in on-
ion, for example); and, secondly, don't lead your reader ast-
ray by creating words that shouldn't be there. (Rays? What rays?).

Sometimes a really inspired use of a hyp-hen can create two new words, and then the meaning can end up momentarily scram-
bled.

Here are three recent examples of hyp-hens going, well, ape.

Cor-
respondent.

(presumably one of those annoying people who think it's acceptable to give a three-letter answer to an email.)

Psycho-
tic

(which makes me wish I hadn't already written a book called CLASS SIX AND THE NITS OF DOOM.)

Pre-
pared.

(so, have the apples in that recipe been peeled, or are they also cored and chopped?)

So there we are, some lovely hyp-hens. They always hold out the hope of a bit of fun in even the dullest article, so all power to them!

Nuts and Bolts: hyp-hens. This word is Latin and means the combining of two words, from the Greek huphon, together, and heis, one.


2 comments:

  1. I do like a nice hyphen! I said the name Hermoione HER-MY-ONE for ages because of the misplacing of a hyphen at school.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, gosh, yes. And I had just the same trouble with Euri-dice!

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