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MailTribune.com
  • A few words from Hyphen Nation

  • Have you had this bug that's going around? The one where your eyes switch sockets, you have Slinkys for knees, and there's a wave tank sloshing between your ears?
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  • Have you had this bug that's going around? The one where your eyes switch sockets, you have Slinkys for knees, and there's a wave tank sloshing between your ears?
    Well, you're not alone "… and if you are alone, you can find solace in the sympathy of an imaginary friend — even if you're not a linebacker for Notre Dame.
    Seasonal illnesses are just one more thing — like tax forms and movies too bad for Oscar consideration — that arrive to make us ill after the first of the year. Everybody has the flu, sometimes. There's no exception to the rule. It may be factual, may be cruel (that's no lyin'), because everybody has the flu.
    The thing about the bug that has those afflicted in such dire straits is that it's out of our control, regardless of the steps we take to avoid it.
    One day, you're riding high in the mountains, pedal to the metal, all adversaries in the rearview. The next you're spinning your wheels on an apology tour de Lance with Oprah, wondering how everything strayed off course.
    Sometimes you're the windshield, Mark Knopfler wrote, sometimes you're the bug "… although the bug in that lyric only takes one tissue to wipe away.
    "The Bug" — the song, not the illness — became a bit of a hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter back in 1992 "… and here's where this sidetrack get back on course, the stones in the road flying out from beneath our bicycle tires.
    Carpenter — who will be in concert April 17 along with Shawn Colvin at the Ginger Rogers Stage off the Carpenter & Frohnmayer Lobbies next to the Berryman Lounge inside the Craterian Theatre at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts — spent a good portion of the early part of her career as Mary-Chapin Carpenter.
    The hyphen was there to alert the press and the public that her first name was indeed "Mary Chapin" and her last name wasn't "Chapin Carpenter," with or without a hyphen. Like all well-intentioned attempts at clarification, the success rate was outside the margin of error, and the hyphen disappeared.
    Hyphens have been doing that, in case you haven't noticed.
    For instance, there's no longer a hyphen in the word "email." E-commerce still has a hyphen, as does e-book — although in such cases, the E is lowercase except when starting a sentence such as this one.
    What next? Will the hyphen disappear from the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport? Will drive-thru windows become "drivethru" windows, even in Ashland?
    In the same fashion, "cellphone" and "smartphone" have lost the space between what previously had been a two-part phrase and created kludgy compound words that clutter our memory banks.
    It's a cultural shift, falling somewhere between the loss of the second space after a period in typed correspondence and the use of Roman numerals on timepieces. What it signifies, in a world where hyphens and spaces are secondary characters in Twitter limits, is the merging of what was and what is.
    The mail and the phone were universal properties. Everyone knew what they were and how the communication would be delivered. An "e-mail" or a "cell phone" added a specific clarification as to how the communication would be sent.
    But, now, the percentage of people with landline phones is dropping at an exponential rate — and the number of folks who still communicate through snail-mail are disappearing faster than those who still read a daily newspa-
    Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga / Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
    Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga / Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
    Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga / I can't stop this feeling
    We're sorry, all our columnists are busy right now. Your reading is very important to us, so please remain on the page and the next available columnist will be with you shortly. See what Paul Fattig is afraid of finding in his cats' litter box on Page 1B. Your reading is very important to us. Your anticipated wait time is approximately one more earworm.
    If you like Pina Coladas,
    and getting caught in the rain.
    If you're not into yoga,
    if you have half-a-brain
    Along with the bug, another unexpected arrival this week was a wall clock, festooned with the aforementioned Roman numerals — which have been relegated in our modern society to timepieces used more for decoration than for function, keeping track of Super Bowls, and for families who can't think of anything better to name their male children.
    The Super Bowl is in a little over two weeks time and, once it's on the TV, no one will touch that dial "… because not only has the game become a national holiday, no one has a dial anymore.
    "TV" itself, of course, is a remnant of a time when "tele vision" could be thought of as two words. There's little reason for the V to be used; it serves the same purpose as the D in TD for "touchdown."
    It's unnecessary but culturally imprinted. Like the hyphen in e-mail, it reminds us of how much we gain, how much we lose, and how one generation's windshield is another generation's bug.
    Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.
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