About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.
And if you’ve got a problem with that, don’t be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).
The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on web sites and seep into newspapers and books.
“People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they’re not really sure what they are for,” said Angus Stevenson, Editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.
Another factor in the hyphen’s demise is designers’ distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words.
“Printed writing is very much design-led these days in adverts and web sites, and people feel that hyphens mess up the look of a nice bit of typography,” he said. “The hyphen is seen as messy looking and old-fashioned.”
The team that compiled the Shorter OED, a two-volume tome despite its name, only committed the grammatical amputations after exhaustive research. More.