Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hyphenation Is Not My Strong Suit

My father read through my entire website the other day.

I'd called him and said, "Hey, Dad! There's this really famous DC blog called Wonkette, and they put a link to one of my blog posts! And now a ton of people are visiting my site! Isn't that cool?"

"Yes, that's cool! What did you write about?"

"Well, that's the thing...It was a post about foot prostitution..."

"Foot prostitution?" He laughed. "I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed."

So he sat down and read every single post, start to end. And he emailed me. With a list of grammatical errors. And he had the following comment. "You seem to be opposed to using hyphens."

The fact is that I'm terrible at hyphenating. I'm never sure if something is supposed to be hyphenated, or all one word, or two separate words. Sometimes I guess, but mostly when in doubt, I just leave them separate. It's a good thing I'm not German. I'd get in trouble all the time for separating those eternally long adjectivenounverbanoatheradjectiveandanothernoun words.

You'd think I'd be better at it. I've taught English, for God's sake. I did my graduate work in linguistics. But just as taking courses in theoretical syntax didn't prepare me for teaching, nothing that I can recall in my educational background, taught me how to hyphenate. Or maybe the real reason is simple. I find memorizing those rules incredibly dull, and so except when I had to teach them, I just never did.

So back to my dad. He did have a couple comments about my use of the f-word, but for the most part, this man was focused on grammar. He then offered to edit my writing before I post it.

He's a good writer, he's more detail-oriented (how's that for hyphenation?) than I am, and he is a thorough editor.

But here's the kind of conversation that I anticipate, and I don't know how to wrap my mind around it.

"Honey, in paragraph two, 'monkey sex' shouldn't be hyphenated. But in the first paragraph of the second post, I think 'ass-lick' probably should. "

"Thanks, Dad."

"I don't mean to criticize, but are you sure you want to call someone an ass-lick on the internet?"

"Daaaaaaad! You promised - just the grammar!"

"OK, OK. Just wondering. And mom and I were also wondering about the "monkey sex." Is this new slang?"

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