The Hyphen’s the Tell

The media is abuzz about yesterday’s “ouster”–a.k.a. sacking–of Jill Abramson as executive editor of the New York Times. But, naturally, I was more interested in what a Times staffer, Patricia Cohen, tweeted about the announcement of the change:

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Of course, gobsmacked is a venerable NOOB–but not venerable enough for Ms. Cohen to realize it doesn’t take a hyphen.

5 thoughts on “The Hyphen’s the Tell

  1. Curiously, the OED does not recognize right-o (my intended response), or depending on what other dictionary one consults, righto.

  2. If you try to imagine yourself saying what Patricia Cohen wrote, you might find yourself pronouncing the word in a particular way that kind of emphasizes the shock of the “sacking” of Jill Abramson.
    I have grown old watching my English children ignore almost all rules of grammar and language although I suspect they have their own rules. Their rules may also apply to their Canadian and Australian friends as they apparently have no difficulty communicating which curiously I did in the 60s. I have no evidence for the existence of these “notional” rules. I can say that in all my years of clinical practice, I never once wrote “gobsmacked” in a patients notes. It is to me, a new word and as such I remain open to its correct spelling and articulation. I will accept that modification of a word to achieve a dramatic effect is quite acceptable. So is Patricia Cohen so uneducated that she did not realize that gobsmacked has an OED spelling with no hyphen?
    I’m afraid all I can say is Patricia Cohen may be doing nothing more than inventing/adapting the language to express her emotions.

  3. If someone hit her in the mouth while breaking the news, she may just have the right to describe herself as “gob-smacked”.

  4. She does seem to understand that “gob” is slang for “mouth”, though, which demonstrates that she has thought about it rather than thoughtlessly regurgitated something she has heard.

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