by Greg Baysans, aka Poet XTo-Wit: Two
Back to: Grab Bag
"Welcome back, students, to 'To-Wit' 101. That's an acronym for 'The Oregonian - What's It Teaching?'
"We start each Thursday with a review of the past week. Last Friday we took a preliminary look at bad hyphens with 'browns-tone'. It appeared in the cover story of the A&E section.
"On Tuesday we discussed the often-erroneously hyphenated 'pres-ent'. It appeared in the main editorial. I'd like to thank The Oregonian for printing that at such a timely ... uh, time ,,, for our discussion.
"Today we wrap up the discussion of hyphens with an excellent example of why the hyphenation issue is so important.
"The average reader is intelligent and well-read enough to figure out the proper words in the above-mentioned examples. In both cases the reader is not being well-served because of the hesitation caused by re-reading to correct an error. But it's more an inconvenience than misrepresentation.
"Today's example makes intelligent readers un-intelligent. Please open your text, The Oregonian for today, Thursday, April 4, 2002, to page A-14. There you'll find a lovely story about children and a literacy program.
"Go to the third paragraph. The writer has introduced some characters from a children's TV show and continues to describe a vocal group called the 'Vowel-hyphen-les'. A reader, unfamiliar with this word, will need to re-read. Ah! 'Vowel' is familiar; the word, then, is pronounced 'VOW-uhl-lays'. Fine. We continue reading.
"Close to the end of the article the writer returns to the images she used to open the story. There, unhyphenated, we again meet the 'Vowelles.' The intelligent reader sees something that wasn't seen before: a common suffix, 'elle,' usually used as a diminutive. Aha! The Vow-elles! Rhymes with Shirelles and echoes that great backup group for Martha Reeves, the Vandellas!
"The 'Vow-hyphen-elles', of course.
"That ends today's lesson. Be sure to remember your paper for class tomorrow. I'm anxious to see if yesterday's discussion of headlines will be resumed.
"Have a great evening, class."
Professor Soren Horse, Portland Understands Papers University.