Hyphens are very important

Posted by DH on November 29, 2004

In Reply to: Hyphen overdose? posted by Smokey Stover on November 28, 2004

: : : : : : : : : : : Princess Di had some on camera interviews where she reported her suspicion that an ex-lover had been 'bumped off'. That term sounds unusual. Is it used widely in the UK?

: : : : : : : : : : I don't remember it being used much. I can't remember the exact phrases used(no one I know has ever been bumped or done any bumping). I suspect it is something understated though, along the lines of saying "He's leaving to spend more time with his family", which is code for "he's been forced out" or if the person leaving is saying it, "I disagree with everything going on and I'm leaving before it all goes horribly wrong."

: : : : : : : : : Yes, 'bumped off' is widely used in the UK. It means killed.

: : : : : : : : I wonder whether 'bumped off' is a contrast with 'shuffled off this mortal coil'. bumped, like nudged, suggests something being given a bit of help.

: : : : : : : If I was using "bumped-off" to describe murder, I'd give it a hyphen; however, if I was describing being denied boarding to a plane, I'd say "bumped off"--without hyphen. I know I tend to use hyphens alot (I would have written "on-camera", not on camera, in the first thread). I like hyphens. Having googled "bumped off" it appears that nobody hyphenates "bumped off". Why?

: : : : : : The hyphen is appropriate here only if the phrase is used as an adjective. "After the deed was done, the bumped-off guy was given cement boots and dumped in the river." You might give an interview on camera, and then it would be an on-camera interview. Thus, in the first sentence, "Diana gave an on-camera interview" is the correct form. I think "bumped off" is American gangster slang from an earlier epoch. SS

: : : : : Smokey's right about hyphenation. You can't just sprinkle hyphens around because you like them. They do a job, an adhesive one, in the service of disambiguation-namely, sticking words together to show that a group of words is a functional unit.

: : : : : "Bump off" is slang, not a euphemism as "spend more time with my family" is.

: : : : Worse than sprinkling hyphens is using the no[word removed in order to comply with Google's Publisher Policy] "alot."

: : : Smokey --- what is your authority for a hyphen in bumped off? The dictionary I consulted doesn't seem to think it necessary or appropriate.

: : This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine was chastised for overuse of the exclamation point.

: Lexi, don't look for the use of hyphens in a dictionary, look in a style manual. They all deal with the subject, although not always in the same way. Each publisher (or his style specialist) answers such stylistic questions in the way he prefers. There is, however, a fair degree of consensus in the use of the hyphen with phrases used as adjectives in the attributive position. SS

For clarity the hyphen is very important in the compound-adjective modifier. Everyone surely remembers the one horned flying purple people eater--dh