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September 24, 2007

Is the hyphen doomed?


According to a story by Finlo Rohrer published September 20, 2007 in the BBC News Magazine, the answer is "yes."

Here's the piece.

    Small object of grammatical desire

    It's small. It's flat. It's black. And according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, its numbers are shrinking. Welcome to the world of the hyphen.

    Having been around since at least the birth of printing, the hyphen is apparently enjoying a difficult time at the moment.

    The sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has knocked the hyphens out of 16,000 words, many of them two-word compound nouns. Fig-leaf is now fig leaf, pot-belly is now pot belly, pigeon-hole has finally achieved one word status as pigeonhole and leap-frog is feeling whole again as leapfrog.

    The blame, as is so often the case, has been put at least in part on electronic communication. In our time-poor lifestyles, dominated by the dashed-off [or should that be dashed off or dashedoff] e-mail, we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key.

    And English, being a language lacking any kind of governing body and instead relying on studies of usage, is changing to keep up.

    Shorter OED editor Angus Stevenson doesn't want anybody to get angry over the hyphen's decline.

    "We only reflect what people in general are reading. We have been tracking this for some time and we've been finding the hyphen is used less and less," he says.

    "It will probably upset a few people but the point I would make is that we are only reflecting widespread everyday use. We are not saying it should be dropped completely."

    Geoffrey Leech, emeritus professor of linguistics and English language at Lancaster University, agrees that there has been some decline in its use.

    Data drawn from a wide range of publications taken in 1961 and 1991 suggested a 5% decline in hyphen usage over the three decades. He thinks e-mails may be part of the answer.

    "When you are sending e-mails, and you have to type pretty fast, on the whole it's easier to type without hyphens. Ordinary people are not very conscious of the fact of whether they are putting hyphens or not."

    Chris Robinson, who edits for Scottish Language Dictionaries and gives classes in advanced writing at the University of Edinburgh, says she has bigger grammatical fish to fry, with undergraduates often needing an explanation as to the difference between a noun and a verb and where to place a full stop.

    "I tell my writing classes the hyphen is there to help the reader and to show either that two words are linked in some significant way or to add understanding in words like go-between and de-icing," she says.

    "Language is always changing. It has to move with the times. There have to be conventions. There has to be a negotiated common ground but within that there's room for variation and a degree of creativity."

    One battleground is the word e-mail itself. The likes of the BBC and the New York Times are fighting a valiant defence of the hyphen. But to much of the rest of the world, it's email.

    With the hyphen, Mr Stevenson notes: "It's starting to look a lot like something your grandmother might write."



On a related note is the ultimate hyphen battle, that being whether or not to use it in the word "mashup."

The New York Times is itself so befuddled that it sometimes uses the hyphen and other times omits it.

In the spirit of less is more, you know where I stand on the issue.

September 24, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Best joke of the week


It appeared in the
Wall Street Journal, in
a full page ad (below)


for AIG.

September 24, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet Natalie Portman — Along with Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman


9 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, September 25, 2007) night at the Apple store in New York City.

They'll participate in a Q&A following the free world premiere of Anderson's new short (13 minutes) film, "Hotel Chevalier."

The movie will also be screened free tomorrow night at Apple stores in Chicago, San Francisco and Santa Monica, California, alas without the principals' meet 'n greet.

Can't make it?

Not to fret.

Starting Wednesday (September 26, 2007) you can download the movie free from the iTunes store.

What's this all about, anyway?

Long story short: Director Anderson's decided to create a kind of multimedia extravanza around the upcoming Saturday (September 29, 2007) release of his new feature film, "The Darjeeling Limited," for which "Hotel Chevalier" is a prequel of sorts, featuring the same actors (Portman, Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody).


Here's Peter Sanders's article from today's Wall Street Journal with much more about all the exciting stuff going down.

    Coming Soon: A New Take On the Old Double Bill

    Movie director Wes Anderson, known for such offbeat films as "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," is adding an especially unconventional touch to his latest project.

    Before "The Darjeeling Limited" is released in New York on Saturday, Mr. Anderson is urging audiences to see another of his films — this one a related 13-minute short called "Hotel Chevalier" that will be released on the Internet this week.

    "Hotel Chevalier" represents a novel approach to generating buzz for "Darjeeling," a quirky film from Fox Searchlight that doesn't have a powerhouse marketing budget. The main film is about three brothers — played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody — who take a comic "spiritual journey" through India after their father's death. Like Mr. Anderson's past films, the new picture isn't easily summarized or boiled down to an easy selling point.

    "Hotel Chevalier," meanwhile, is a prequel of sorts that was made a year before "Darjeeling" even began filming. It takes place entirely in the Paris hotel room of Mr. Schwartzman's character and includes information that later becomes relevant in "Darjeeling." The short film's premiere will be Tuesday night at Apple stores in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif. Then, starting Wednesday, it will be available as a free download on Apple Inc.'s iTunes Web site.

    Before a recent press screening, Fox Searchlight, which says it has no financial stake in "Chevalier," distributed a statement from Mr. Anderson saying it was his goal to "get every person who goes to ["The Darjeeling Limited"] to see the short first." Mr. Anderson may have a hook: The short co-stars Natalie Portman, who appears in an extended nude scene — but whose character makes just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in "The Darjeeling Limited."

    If that seems like a Hollywood bait and switch, Mr. Anderson says it wasn't intended that way. The use of "Hotel Chevalier" as a promotional tool, he says, is an attempt to put one of his creative works to use and stir up intrigue around the main movie. As for choosing to release the short separately from the feature, he says, "I don't know if it's a wildly commercial idea, and it is probably a little confusing to people who are thinking, 'Why is this separate from the movie?' But the short is just as important to me as the feature is."

    Ms. Portman, for her part, says she was insistent that neither her name nor image be used in mainstream marketing for "The Darjeeling Limited." "I'm in "Chevalier," which you can see on the Internet, I'm not really in Wes's movie," Ms. Portman says. "I asked Wes to make sure that I'm not in the previews because I really think it's false advertising."

    But Ms. Portman says she's happy with the short and will promote "Hotel Chevalier" by appearing with Messrs. Anderson and Schwartzman at the Apple store screening in New York, where they will participate in a Q&A with the audience afterward, much like at a film festival.

    Mr. Anderson's experiment could become more frequent in the coming years as "a certain caliber of filmmaker who has access to talent and some equipment can have a great idea for a film and get the ball rolling on their own without having to go through the traditional studio process," says Scott Roesch, vice president and general manager of AtomFilms, which distributes digital short films. AtomFilms is a unit of Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks and isn't involved with Mr. Anderson's projects. "The short is creating a lot of buzz so it's hard to see how that doesn't help the film and has got to be a little bit of a marketer's dream for Fox." (Fox Searchlight is owned by News Corp., which has agreed to buy Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for more than $5 billion.)

    The story of the two films begins in 2005 when Mr. Anderson approached Ms. Portman and Mr. Schwartzman to do "Chevalier" as a stand-alone short film. But shortly before he began filming, Mr. Anderson realized Mr. Schwartzman's character would fit perfectly in a feature film he was conceptualizing at the time, which ultimately became "The Darjeeling Limited." He had been finished with "Chevalier" for about a year when filming began for the Indian movie.

    "I shot 'Chevalier' in 2½ days and edited it in about a week on my computer," says Mr. Anderson. "I had one copy of 'Chevalier' on DVD, and I'd show it to people on my laptop that entire year," says Mr. Anderson. He says that he financed "Chevalier" entirely out of his own pocket. He considered filming two additional shorts to fill in background on the other main characters and at one point considered opening the movie with the "Chevalier" sequence.

    He scotched that idea in favor of keeping the films separate, but did write in a small role for Ms. Portman. "Wes told me that it wasn't really going to be the first scene in the movie but rather a short on its own that's almost like a prequel to the movie," she says. "He asked me come do a cameo in India, and it sounded nice, and weird, and [like] an unusual way to do things."

    So the actress says she traveled to the film's location in Jodhpur, India, to shoot for about half an hour and then spent 10 days exploring India afterward.

    While viewing "Chevalier" before seeing "Darjeeling" isn't necessary to understand what's happening in the latter, "Chevalier" effectively adds a layer of detail to the feature's plot. "You sort of have to see the short in order to get everything that's in "Darjeeling,' " says Mr. Anderson. In that sense, he is hoping moviegoers will want to flesh out the story on their own. "My ideal thing would be to have the audience member come over to my apartment and watch the short on my computer and the next day they'd watch the movie in the theater," he says.

September 24, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'A Guide to Hot Chile Peppers'


Right here.

Pictured up top is the world's hottest chile pepper, the Bhut Jolokia.

With 1,001,304 Scoville Heat Units, it's nearly twice as hot as Red Savina, the former record holder.

For reference, a New Mexico green chile measures about 1,500 SHUs and and your average jalapeño around 10,000 SHUs.

Do the math.

But if all those zeros make your head spin, allow my crack math team to perform the calculation — in its collective head! (they're that good) — and report that the Bhut Jolokia is about 100 times hotter than a jalapeño.


bookofjoe last visited the hot pepper space nearly three years ago, on November 23, 2004, so it was probably time.

[Just in from my semi-crazed, half-delirious Indianapolis, Indiana correspondent clifyt, who writes, "Just continuing my duties and finding cool things to forward to you to say 'NO, THIS STUFF SUCKS, GO FIND SOMETHING INTERESTING!' — I found this on the Chef From Hell blog — www.hellchef.com/foodblog/2007/9/23/a-guide-to-hot-chile-peppers.html

Ok, back to nursing my sunburn from hanging out on the Outer Banks of North Carolina while sitting here in an oncology research lab at Duke University where my friends are actually speaking English for once, but I am even more clueless about the conversation than I am when they are shouting at me in German :-)


September 24, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres' — Julius Caesar, 50-58 B.C.


"The map is not the territory" — Alfred Korzybski, 1931

"The territory no longer precedes the map" — Jean Baudrillard, 1981


"Map/territory relation" — Wikipedia, 2007

September 24, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gregory Pouf Stool — by Gregory Lacoua


A 2006 creation for Ligne Roset by recent design school graduate Gregory Lacoua,


it starts as a circular rug that rises to sitting height, becoming a stool.


Price upon application.

September 24, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Death of the hospital white coat


This revolution's starting in the U.K., with new government guidelines banning ties, watches, artificial fingernails, jewelry and long-sleeved white coats and shirts on doctors and nurses in all hospital wards scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2008.

I wish this had happened back when I was in med school, miserable as I was wearing my white coat, white shirt and tie as I made my way through the seemingly endless third and fourth years.

The new recommendations aim to reduce the rates of methicillin-resistant staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile infections spread by poorly washed or unwashed hands.

Said the Department of Health of the usual doctor garments, "They are rarely laundered but worn daily. They perform no beneficial function to patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens."

September 24, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Frigits — 'About as much fun as anyone can have with a refrigerator'


True, it's not as elaborate and elegant as one of Anthony Hopkins's character's creations in "Fracture" but then, you're no Anthony Hopkins.

From the website:


    A marble run that sticks to the fridge, filing cabinet or any metal surface by way of a large number of very powerful magnets.

    Arrange the channels and let the marbles roll!

    About as much fun as anyone can have with a refrigerator.

    Frigits make a great gift for any occasion and you don't have to be a kid to enjoy them!

    Sometimes the simplest ideas work so well.


September 24, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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