Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Living on hyphens

One man’s family:

Years ago, when you and I and the world were younger, language was simpler. In the ’90s, when I was in my teens, my father and grandfather were students of grammar and related subjects, such as punctuation and compounding. My father specialized in the field of the compound word. We of his household may be said to have lived on hyphens. We did this figuratively, in that we heard them much discussed; literally, in that they translated into food, shelter, clothing and recreation, since they furnished the head of the house with remunerative employment.

Edward N. Teall, Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place) (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1937).
A family living on hyphens: something Salinger might have invented.

Edward Teall’s father must have been F. Horace Teall, who wrote The Compounding of Words in “Funk & Wagnalls’ Standard Dictionary of the English Language” (1891), available from Google Books. Like father, like son.

I found my way to Meet Mr. Hyphen by reading Mary Norris’s Between You & Me.


March 25: Peter Sokolowski of Merriam-Webster tells me that Edward Teall was a Merriam-Webster editor. Thanks, Peter.

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