Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hallowed hyphens, Batman!

Someone once told me that when you use a phrase so that it becomes an adjective, or descriptor, for the word that follows after it, then you have to join the words of that phrase up with hyphens. So ‘half-hearted hack’, ‘two-way street’, ‘wide-armed generosity’, and so on.

But I ran into an interesting (well, interesting to me, at least) problem today – what happens when the phrase that is used as a descriptor is itself rather large? Is it obligatory to join all the words in the phrase together with hyphens? ‘The-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side attitude’? A ‘you-have-to-get-up-pretty-early-in-the-morning-in-order-to-beat-this-little-black-duck mindset’? Just how long could such descriptors become?

'She had an a-jug-of-bread-a-loaf-of-wine-and-thou-

Also, what if the phrase that became a descriptor to the following word itself contained words that were hyphenated? Do you have to double hyphenate it?

'She had an I’ll-get-you-if-it’s-the-last-thing-I-do-you-two-timing-bastard look on her face.'

Then again, I guess not, because the pre-existent hyphen in 'two-timing' signifies that the words have already been joined together, brought into a relationship, and function as one unit. Also, it would look pretty bloody silly. And you wouldn't want to be too two-timing on two-timing, now, would you?


Dan the VespaMan said...

Perhaps if you wanted to save on wear-and-tear of your spacebar then the hyphen is the answer. I feel a little sorry for the hyphen and think it deserves more respect. Unlike that underscore_thingy it shares a key with. I mean, when are we supposed to use that??? _ _ _

TimT said...

__________ed if I know!

Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive