What I love is the exactness of the English language. And how precise it is. Or is it now rigorous it is. Or narrow. All synonyms of precise.
I write about this after I did a word count on an article I wrote recently, using my home word processor. I found that it didn’t match a similar word processor I use elsewhere. So, I decided to test this on some free online word counting software on the ‘net. Guess what? No one matched.
What accounts for the difference? Are they dropping ‘a’, or perhaps ‘the’? Or maybe there’s something weird with hyphenated words.
Reminds me of back in the 70s when digital watches were catching on. I went to school with a bunch of techies who all bought nice and shiny digital watches, then would sit around synchronizing them so they all had the exact time. Because if it’s digital, it has to be accurate, right?
I’ll bet I can’t find any two pieces of equipment in my house that have the same time.
Another thing I noticed the other day. My wife and I were talking about all the various rules for hyphens. Yes, we’re those kind of people – writers. We can have entire fascinating conversations about hyphens. Well, interesting to us, at least.
We all went hyphen happy back when I was in grade school (quick aside – why did we call elementary school grade school? We had grades in all our school levels. Just curious) when we first learned to write and needed to continue a word from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. I remember we’d chop a word at the nearest syllable right when it almost bumped against the edge of the paper. Then, we’d squeak in a hyphen and continue the word on the next line. Don’t know if they’re still teaching that or not. But when I looked up hyphens on the ‘net, I didn’t see that listed as a technique.
But other than that, the various and sundry rules for applying hyphens seems just a little on the random side. Take a look at the example of a car that is thirty years old. First off, you should be doing regular maintenance on your car if it’s thirty years old, but I’m figuring that if you have it and it runs, then you’re already doing that, so let’s move on. The thirty years old describes your car, and when I say that my car is thirty years old I don’t need hyphens because the thirty years old comes after the car. But if I say that I have a thirty-year-old car, then I’m supposed to hyphenate (in public, no less!). Now why the two cases should be different, I don’t know, other than that the Committee for Proliferating English Confusion met one day, and they’d all just eaten a bad lunch and were grumpy when they voted, so they said, “Hey, let’s make compound adjectives that are in front of the noun hyphenated, and the ones that come after, we’ll make non-hyphenated. Just ‘cause we can.”
And I say if they’re keeping adjectives in a compound, anyway, they need to set them free.
‘til next time…Adios.