Of the wire stories about the New-York Historical...


February 23, 1993

IN SOME of the wire stories about the New-York Historical Society, which is having to close its library, the society is pictured as debt-ridden; in others, as debt ridden. But so far, the name New York has appeared, correctly, with hyphen.

Today, the hyphen suffers; tomorrow, it could disappear. Seemingly, no other association or organization gives its location as New-York. (Abroad, however, the name is sometimes still so printed.)

The last true master of hyphenation must have died 50 years ago, or 100. Then, the accepted spelling was to-day, and to-morrow. Mencken (Supplement Two) glides by the topic. Fowler (all right, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, by H. W. Fowler) begins, "The chaos prevailing among writers or printers or both regarding the use of hyphens is discreditable to English education." He fumes hyphenously on, six whole pages.

It doesn't do for Baltimoreans to be finger-pointers (fingerpointers?). Ours is the city that had a newspaper called the News-Post; then, after 1964, the News American.

We can, though, offer diacritical comment. We can gaze off toward the Eastern Shore, and flinch. How do you spell Delmarva?

All one word is the easy way. But that gives Delaware the capital letter, Maryland the stressed syllable, Virginia not much. Egalitarians write it Del-Mar-Va.

The two main Shore phone books contain about 135 Delmarva listings, about 15 Del-Mar-Vas. A veterinary hospital is listed as Del Marva. Is, however, the modern telephone directory always gospel-truthful? The name given for a dairy market over there is De-Lux.

Let us skip the word-splitting possibilities of our time's computer-driven, general-reader hyphenation. We do recall Gen. Norman Schw- arzkopf?

Let us do point a moral, grind into the subconscious, utter as last words: the New York Herald Tribune, Time Warner Corp., Times Mirror Co. Not a hyphen in a haymow.


No-no! Good-bye.

If this glance at punctuation policy lack the clarity of crystal, frown not. The apostrophe's harder.

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