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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The New Yorker lifts me up on the contraception debate, but lets me down on hyphens

I love the New Yorker magazine and its writers. It is the one magazine that I am sure to read every week; it is always written and edited well. That's why the lead article in the March 19 edition, Taking Control, in "The Talk of the Town" surprised me. [Before I digress into grammar, I will say that the editorial was spot-on. My daughter of 27 years is living in our house for a short while, and Ann and I hear the moral outrage from Claire and her friends on a regular basis. I can only hope that this outrage is widespread in the polls and has an impact on Congress and the state legislatures on election day 2012. Those contests may matter more than the presidential race if we want to break the logjam in Washington and roll back the reactionary agenda in the states. I do look forward to the time when contraception and transvaginal ultrasound are not dinner-table conversation.]

Two of my "favorite" errors appeared in this article. It seems that the writer is in the younger generation which has a slightly different perspective on the English language and grammar.

The first error is that the Latin phrase ad hominem is hyphenated. It's not supposed to be, as I noted in a recent blog on foreign phrases and hyphenation. New Yorker editorial review has caught this in the past. Just do a Google search on "ad hominem" and you'll see that this was a deviation from the common practice and editorial guidelines of the magazine.

The second error is that "teenager" is presented as a hyphenated word, "teen-ager." It occurs in the second paragraph before the end of the article, in the phrase "to become pregnant as teen-agers." Every dictionary I searched has this as a compound word, not hyphenated.

Margaret Talbot's content is always wonderful and appreciated; it is only with great fear and trepidation that I question an acclaimed writer. However, I am sure that I am correct. New [incorrect] uses of the English language have been appearing consistently in technical presentations in Silicon Valley. But this is the first time I have seen them spill over into mainstream publications.


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