| A few days ago, I
received a remarkable book that I had ordered from Alibris. Published in 1937 and
titled Meet Mr. Hyphen and Put Him in His Place,
it is devoted entirely to the spelling of compound words. The author,
Edward N. Teall, seems to have been a lexicographer who specialized in
the spelling of compound words; a photograph of him appears at 60.
After some years of assiduous and quite critical study of the compounding of words, I have come to the conclusion that the American way is to reduce hyphening to a minimum and either "say it fast" by solidfying or streamline the words by using the open or two-word form. The hyphen is like the old-fashioned coupling pin with which railroad cars were hooked up into trains. The comparison will not stand elaboration, but it is useful to us for the moment in sidelighting the argument.1I first encountered this book when I was in high school and a friend bought a copy at a thrift shop; we thought it was hilarious. Decades later, having struggled with only limited success with the problem of consistent spelling of compound words in English, I think the book a wonder.
(January 6, 2004)