Monday, May 14, 2007

Writing for Fun: Hyp-Hens

The dreaded but often hilarious hyp-hen has died. With improved technology, today's books, newspapers and magazines rarely break words that used to over-run column width with wrongly-placed hyphens in a way that led to mans-laughter and other typographical leg-ends.

David McKie, of Cambridge, had read that the model Iman was reputed to be 6 ft. 2 in. tall but was in fact "almost half a foot short of her leg-end." His brain underwent tortuous contortions before he realised "what was truly legendum(to be read)."

A round-up of amusing hyp-hens from newspapers and Internet sites have yielded these gems (some of which were genuine errors, others were imaginary):

pa-rent an

Then there was a slew of age hyp-hens: ad-age, plum-age, mess-age, front-age, and pass-age, culminating in dot-age (short for the dot-com age, or the age when you become a bit dotty). These were closely related to broke-rage and stop-page.

Rampage was a real humdinger - a double hyp-hen. It could become either ram-page or ramp-age. Another double hyp-hen was history, which could divide into hi-story or his-tory.

On the Internet, wordsmith Anu Garg, who sends A Word a Day (AWAD, a wad of words) free to more than 500,000 wordlovers in 210 countries, contributed male-diction with the wry remark "That"s why men curse more often than women." In other words, men-swear. He also coined irre-dentist and stars-truck ("bus for members of a film star"s fan club").

Daniel Austin, then a 20-year-old student from Leamington Spa, England, and webmaster at Fun With Words, dreamed up diver-gent, red-raw, gene-rations, now-here, red-raft, man-aging, past-oral and fat-her. Next day (while in the bath) he thought of seven more: domes-tic, par-king (a good golfer), dorm-ant, mist-rust, reed-it, rest-rain and dip-ole.

Cory Calhoun, then a 23-year-old student studying graphic design and theatre arts at Western Washington University (U.S.), featured a page of hyp-hens on his website. These included yell-ow and wee-knight. And what was his favourite hyp-hen?”

I read a real gem the other day," he told us. "The suspect was charged with mans-laughter!" Then there’s always:

25% off members-hips (fitness club
hairs-pray (whenever it's humid)
sty-list (handy for pig farmers)
disc-lose (I hate it when that happens!)
gang-lion (do they wear fur coats or leather jackets?)
disc-over (ahhh... quiet)
miss-ed (a case of gender identity disorder?)
overt-axing (this lumberjack ain't shy)
overt-urn (a really brightly painted vessel)
thin-king (the queen should start feeding him more
thins-kinned (a family of slender people)
rump-led (just walk behind me!)

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