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Feb 21, 2021
This week’s theme
To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?

This week’s words
merchant prince
body blow

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 973

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day
and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

“Special and Beautiful” Whistled Language Echoes Around This Island
The New York Times

These Word Cops Stand Guard to Keep Language Clear and Simple
Los Angeles Times

From: Shantanu Pandit (sdpandit gmail.com)
Subject: double-noun words

In college, when I had just begun to discover the delights of language, I had come across this gem somewhere which I still use in stray conversations when the context is right:
“Is the word headache hyphenated? Not unless it’s a splitting one!”

Shantanu Pandit, Mumbai, India

From: Richard Tarnoff (otootski gmail.com)
Subject: This week’s theme

I fully expected to see “wordsmith” picked this week.

Richard Tarnoff, Ladysmith, Canada

From: Eric Grosshans (ericgrosshans gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--merchant prince

You wrote: “Janet Rizvi, brought up in Scotland ...”

Or Scot land, earlier.

Eric Grosshans, Loveland, Colorado

From: Richard Gilbert (r.gilbert ns.sympatico.ca)
Subject: Hyphenation

The Atlantic recently published a novel hyphenated word; the hyphen greatly changed the meaning of the headline:
Hockey Has a Gigantic-Goalie Problem

Richard Gilbert, Linwood, Canada

From: David D. Jones (DaveJones39 hotmail.com)
Subject: hyphenation

In her discussion of double-noun words, Janet Rizvi touched on hyphenation. (Doublenoun? I think not.)

What about e-mail or email? Google’s Ngrams is a wonderful tool. It reports email winning that race.

We’re left to wonder about the use of the two in the 1860s.

David D. Jones, St Paul, Minnesota

From: Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer (christina.sanchez anglistik.uni-muenchen.de)
Subject: To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?

In this week’s interesting guest post, Janet Rizvi pointed out that it is notoriously difficult to decide whether to spell English compound words with a space, with a hyphen, or as a continuous sequence of letters. I entirely agree, because several years ago I was wondering about precisely the same question and then decided to carry out a large-scale linguistic research project on the topic, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018 (English Compounds and Their Spelling).

My results (which are based on the spelling in various British English dictionaries) boil down to the following rules of thumb:
  • Use a hyphen in compound verbs (blow-dry), adjectives (world-famous) and adverbs (well-nigh).
  • Use a space in noun compounds with three or more syllables (bathing suit).
  • Use a hyphen in noun compounds with two syllables whose second part has two letters (make-up).
  • Spell noun compounds with two syllables whose second part has more than two letters as a single word (coastline).
These rules of thumb work very well in three out of four cases and are thus comparable to the performance of two highly educated English native speakers that were tested in the study.

For everyone interested in a few more details on the topic, you may wish to take a look at my brief contribution to the Macmillan Dictionary Blog or the accompanying website for the book (How to spell English compounds in two simple steps), where you can find a video tutorial explaining the spelling strategy and a webtool providing the most likely spelling for the compounds you type in.

PD Dr. Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer, Department of English and American Studies, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany

From: Richard Matthew (rdmatthew shaw.ca)
Subject: hyphen or not

I worked for many years as a technical writer. One good example was a document I was editing that had work station, work-station, and workstation scattered all throughout. I opted to change all to workstation because that is the direction things appear to be going.

Richard Matthew, Surrey, Canada

From: Joe J. Jordan (via website comments)
Subject: Hyphen

As in marriage, those who have been joined together can be unjoined. Bull-shit! is a bit stronger. No?

Joe J. Jordan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Tobias Baskin (baskin bio.umass.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--merchant prince

In the field of genetics, the reference strain is called the wild type. When something is of, or related to, we add a hyphen (the wild-type response). Or so we have since Thomas Hunt Morgan (well, for a long time anyway). Only recently, I am starting to see wildtype. I am confident that wildtype will be ubiquitous in a decade. If so, then it will have taken around a hundred years to lose this particular hyphen.

Tobias Baskin, Amherst, Massachusetts

From: Richard S. Russell (RichardSRussell tds.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--merchant prince

In computerland, where I have a chance to do lots of documentation, we distinguish between “back up”, a verb describing what you should always do with your work; “back-up”, an adjective, as in “back-up copy”; and “backup”, a noun meaning the backed-up thing or the person you should be training to replace you if you step in front of a bus.

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Alexandra Kriz (marchhare pobox.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--merchant prince

While “website” certainly did follow that expedited evolution, “photoshop” has a different origin: it is specifically taken from the name of the software that first made such image editing accessible and commonplace. To my knowledge, there has never been an internet concept of the “photo shop” (or even “photo-shop”) -- which begs the question, had the software had a more awkward or clunky name, would we still have appropriated it to be a verb? (Could you imagine a world where things have been “editangoed” or “pictoflipped”?)

Alexandra Kriz, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From: Randy Young (randyyoung2k yahoo.com)
Subject: Anal Retentive or Anal-Retentive

Used to have fun asking marketing interns during interviews if there was a dash (hyphen) between anal and retentive. Watching either a blank stare or a launch into a discussion told me volumes of their brain workings.

Randy Young, Tega Cay, South Carolina

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Hyphenate or not

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?

The answer is: it is completely arbitrary, determined by usage. What is the difference, for instance, between pre-Civil War and antebellum? We say “good-bye” or “bye, bye” with equal intent. (Of course the former is a shortened form of “God be with you.”)

Sometimes we have to hyphenate in order to indicate proper pronunciation. E.g., co-operative but coexistence, pre-existing but predetermined. And sometimes just to make deciphering easier: “flibberty-gibberty kind of a liberty” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s long forgotten operetta.

Transvestite and cross-dresser mean much the same thing. The Latin prefix trans is in fact exactly the same as the English adverb across. Yet one is written without a hyphen, the other is with the hyphen.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Peirce Hammond (peirceah.03.01 gmail.com)
Subject: merchant prince

There are also times when our princes (e.g., presidents) are merchants and use their albeit (note the three-word combo) temporary power to enhance their mercantile identity and status.

Peirce Hammond, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Jon Kimball (tubajon1230 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--merchant prince

I would certainly accept the unhyphenated version of merchant prince, but I wonder whether we might benefit from an updated version. Maybe borrow from the Russian and substitute “merchant oligarch”? Or in the absence of princes, how about “merchant lobbyist”? Or to more accurately re-phrase it, “K Street crook”.

Jon Kimball, Ashland, Oregon

From: Jacqueline Baroncini (jbaroncini gmail.com)
Subject: Journeyman

Yes, the word journeyman has nothing to do with travel, but journeymen, like the ones in the photo, do travel as part of their training to achieve master status!

Here in Switzerland, we often see such German journeymen in their archaic clothes working as carpenters on building sites.

Jacqueline Baroncini, Petit-Lancy, Switzerland

From: Simon Wolff (wolff.simon gmail.com)
Subject: Journeyman

In Germany, where I come from and work as a German-English translator and copywriter, the so-called Wanderjahre or Walz (journey years) were a long-standing tradition among craftsmen (and, increasingly, women) and one that has seen a revival in past decades. After completing their apprenticeship, the newly trained craftsmen (like the two guys in today’s picture) would leave their town to travel and to hone their craft as day labourers.

Simon Wolff, Berlin, Germany

Email of the Week — Brought to you by Wise Up! — the family that plays together stays together.

From: Marty Holt (born_2_dive hotmail.com)
Subject: Journeyman

“Competent and reliable, but undistinguished.” Gulp. 40 years ago, when I became the first female union carpenter in the state of Utah, I was extremely proud of the fact that I completed my four-year apprenticeship to reach journeyman status, especially since my Texas high school wouldn’t allow girls to take wood shop classes. Still, I had to tolerate being a member of the United BROTHERHOOD of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and was frequently referred to as a lady carpenter or girl carpenter. The hazing on a new job site stopped after I became a journeyman. I never became a master. Now working as a high school counselor, I ensure that the young women know the trades are open to them.

Marty Holt, Alaska

From: Charley Hart (charleyhart007 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--journeyman

Well, that’s one definition... Today a journeyman is a “union” or professional term for a skilled tradesman or craftsman who has completed an apprenticeship and passed demanding testing to demonstrate competency. Except for “years on the job”, journeymen are the near equivalents of “masters”.

Charley Hart, Virginia Beach, Virginia

From: Steven-Lelia Ambrosen (ambro666 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: journeyman in navy

In the US Navy acquiring the level of journeyman is quite the accomplishment.

Steven-Lelia Ambrosen, Pahrump, Nevada

From: Kiko Denzer (potlatch cmug.com)
Subject: journeyman

In the 70s, Kate Braid wrote a wonderful memoir about her entry into the trade of carpentry. It’s called Journeywoman. Worth reading.

Kiko Denzer, Blodgett, Oregon

From: Brian P. O’Sullivan (Brian.P.O’Sullivan hitchcock.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gold-digger

I remember my mother quoting an old saying, “He who marries for money winds up earning it!” With greed, not love, at the heart of the matter the relationship becomes a very difficult job, indeed.

Brian P. O’Sullivan, MD, Manchester, New Hampshire

From: Cindy Watter (hedgehogccw gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gold-digger

Ginger Rogers sang We’re In The Money (3 min.) in the light-hearted Gold Diggers of 1933, a musical designed to lift people’s spirits during the Depression. It must have. There were quite a few “Gold Diggers” movies.

Cindy Watter, Napa, California

From: Keith Greeney (kgreeney aol.com)
Subject: Thomas J. Watson

A man is known by the company he keeps. A company is known by the men it keeps. -Thomas J. Watson, businessman (17 Feb 1874-1956)

Not to be forgotten: (from Wikipedia)
Thomas J. Watson served as the chairman and CEO of International Business Machines (IBM). He oversaw the company’s growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956. During the 1930s, IBM’s German subsidiary was its most profitable foreign operation, and a 2001 book by Edwin Black, “IBM and the Holocaust”, proves that Thomas J. Watson’s pursuit of profit led him to personally approve and spearhead IBM’s strategic technological relationship with Nazi Germany. It describes how IBM provided the tabulating equipment Hitler used to round up the Jews. His Hollerith punch-card machines are in the Holocaust Museum today. The book describes IBM’s punch cards as “a card with standardized holes”, each representing a different trait of the individual. The card was fed into a “reader” and sorted. Punch cards identified Jews by name. Each one served as “a nineteenth-century bar code for human beings”. In particular, critics point to the Order of the German Eagle medal, which Watson received at the Berlin ICC meeting in 1937, as evidence that he was being honored for the help that IBM’s German subsidiary Dehomag (Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH) and its punch card machines provided the Nazi regime, particularly in the tabulation of census data (i.e., location of Jews).

Keith Greeney, Rhinebeck, New York

From: Bryan Todd (boyanlj gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--body blow

Architecture is inhabited sculpture. -Constantin Brancusi, sculptor (19 Feb 1876-1957)

On that theme, one of my favorite tweets ever.

Bryan Todd, Lincoln, Nebraska

Pangraph (contains all words from this week)

Only the journeymen, who slavishly followed the merchant prince they venerate, roughhoused at the Capitol, hoping to deal a body blow to democracy, were surprised when their idol decamped for Mar-a-Lago with his gold-digger wife.
-Ray Wiss, Greater Sudbury, Canada (portray vianet.ca)

Oh, Woe, Woe, Woe...
the body blow
to the merchant prince
came shortly after he
and his journeymen
lost an easy election
to outright theft
and fraud that didn’t
exist. The gold digger,
forced to move
from his cushy
and protected home,
lost not only shelter
in his position,
but money, and now
must rely on others
as he prepares to
play roughhouse
in various courts
of law.
-Lenora Good, Kennewick, Washington (lenora.good icloud.com)

The Golden Fleece
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Gold-digger and roughhouse

Our word gold-digger took me back to one of the quintessential examples of this self-aggrandizing action, namely, the 1994 marriage of then-27-year-old Anna Nicole Smith (a Playboy Playmate) to 89-year-old billionaire, J. Howard Marshall. Most observers speculated that Ms. Smith fit the profile of the classic gold-digger... an accusation she adamantly denied. Marshall passed the year after their nuptials.

Panda Monium
As the great singing duo Simon & Garfunkel once proclaimed in their eponymously titled ballad... “It’s all happening at the zoo.” Here, a pair of sibling pandas are roughhousing, as playful young pandas are wont to do. Rarely is blood drawn, or feelings hurt, in this natural form of faux combat. Perchance, preparation for more serious encounters yet to come, as adults?

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


1. merchant prince
2. journeyman
3. gold-digger
4. roughhouse
5. body blow
= 1. one damn rich
guy 2. job program
3. bling leech
4. get rowdy
5. roundhouse
1. merchant prin
ce 2. journeyman
3. gold-digger
4. roughhouse
5. body blow
= 1. burgher
2. yeoman
3. miner had job, gigolo, scoundrel
4. get rowdy
5. punch
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


He thinks he’s a great merchant prince
And ignores his associates’ hints
To curb his mendacity
And cut the dumb-assity
That makes his confederates wince.
-Gil Hillman, Madison, Wisconsin (grhillman post.harvard.edu)

The man who invented the blintz
Is truly a real merchant prince.
Those crepes filled with cheese
Or fruit, if you please,
Like hotcakes have sold ever since.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The men who have hearts made of flints
Progress in stature, no failing work stints;
They all climb the ladder,
Grasping, madder and madder:
What joy to become a fine merchant prince!
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

Merchant princes Trump long had admired;
To their status he always aspired.
But his “art of the deal”
Has now lost its appeal
And the public’s decided, “You’re fired.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Consider the two brothers Koch
who aren’t like ord’nary folk --
each a true merchant prince
with a huge influence
whose displeasure pols don’t dare provoke.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Sheldon Adelson surely was one --
That now deceased son-of-a-gun --
Trump’s own merchant prince
Over whom I would wince.
Let’s hope BOTH are now over and done!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Now Bill Gates can be called “merchant prince”,
With his wealth, great power to convince.
But, all this he resists,
As a philanthropist,
And to create Climate Change blueprints.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Says Stormy, “I’ll sleep with a merchant prince
To keep him from making a virgin wince.
And this makes me a saint,
So don’t say that I ain’t;
Dates with Donald are no Richard Burton stints.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Declares the young golfer, obsessed
with a sense of self worth, “I won’t rest
until after this tourney’s won.
Not just a journeyman,
I’ll be renowned as the best!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The journeyman looked at the loo.
That plumber knew just what to do.
I’m happy to pay
Since he saved the day --
My toilet’s now flushing like new!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“From Imperial Wizard to journeyman,
We’ll go fight for our Donald -- let’s hurry, Klan,”
The Grand Dragon declared.
“Hang Mike Pence! Gays, be scared!
We will all who are Black, Brown, or nerdy ban!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She was gorgeous and smart and sublime
But revealed her true self in due time.
Just a gold-digger witch
Who had thought I was rich;
All she got was a nickel and dime!
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

As I gaze at my ring-bejewelled fingers,
A wee touch of some guilt really lingers.
All my gold-digger labor,
Its rewards I now savor,
‘Cause this goldminer’s daughter fleeced swingers!
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

The clever, selective gold-digger
pursues a rich widow with vigor,
but changes his course
when he spots one whose source
of income’s substantially bigger.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The billionaire said that he knew
The gold-digger’s love wasn’t true.
“She’s drawn to big bucks
And lifestyles deluxe --
But since she is hot, that’ll do.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

May, a clever and stunning gold-digger,
pursued her old quarry with vigor.
When she caught one they’d say,
“Wow, December with May.”
(To their faces they didn’t dare snigger.)
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The pejorative phrase “a gold-digger”
Doesn’t bother me, nor when friends snigger.
I’ve drawn up a plan
(Post demise of my man)
To move to a stage that’s much bigger.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Said Eeyore, “That kitten’s a gold-digger;
For her love to be real you’re too old, Tigger.
On your money she’ll pounce,
For you’ve lost all your bounce;
Her cute purr will the loss of your dough trigger.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In Spain, the boys roughhouse at play.
They tumble like bear cubs ev’ry day,
while the girls at overnights
engage in soft pillow fights
and dream of wild bullfights. Olé!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

A playful young couple were they.
When he would get carried away,
turning play into roughhouse,
then she’d be a tough spouse
and say, “That’s enough for today!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The brothers would roughhouse all day,
Engaging in dangerous play.
They’re elderly now
And don’t ask me how,
They’re still getting carried away!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

To play rugby you’ve got to be tough.
It’s a rough-house sport -- accent on rough.
That mass-hug called the scrum
may look kind of dumb
but it’s part of the game, right enough.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Said Donald to Stormy, “Let’s roughhouse,
But I’ll tell you, you’re wearing a tough blouse.
For your charms I’m a glutton,
But can’t get this button
With hands the same size as a runt mouse.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From Georgia, a punch made him stagger.
Wisconsin? A jab from a dagger.
In Florida, though
The worst body blow --
His golf, over par, ends his swagger.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Democracy hit a new low
And suffered a big body blow.
If Trump’d had his way
On that awful day
Our government he’d overthrow.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In these senior citizen parts,
We’re led by statistics and charts.
The pandemic, you know,
Was a real body blow,
Isolating our bunch of old farts.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Said the foot doctor, “That’s quite a knobby toe;
If you like Jimmy Choo, it’s a body blow.”
“But my shoes are coquettish;
I trade on foot fetish,”
She answered. “You’re bringi
ng a hottie low!” -Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The trader was a suspect in the robbery. Sure enough, the merchant prince were all over the place.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

When Eric’s ship foundered, Ariel dragged him to shore and offered, “Let me sing you my merchant, Prince.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

As the hippie said after an acid trip, “That was quite a journeyman!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

As the soccer player limped off the field, Juan the trainer asked, “Ju hurt journeyman?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the prospector to his co-workers, “I just found some gold-digger up, boys!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said the football stadium contractor, “We need holes in the end zones for the uprights. Joe, you’ll be the gold-digger. Now let’s get to work.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

My six siblings and I always played loudly together, my parents argued constantly, dogs barked at everything... it was a roughhouse I grew up in.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

Said Fido when his dinner was late, “Roughhouse a dog to get something to eat around here?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the Jamaican sheep during a hurricane, “Body blow-ing wind make me cold, mon.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Great Trumpian Divide
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: The Great Trumpian Divide

Forty-three spineless Republican senators voted NOT to impeach, ignoring irrefutable evidence presented by the House managers that Trump incited insurrection. These Trumpsters cleaved to the flimsy argument that to impeach a president who was no longer in office would be unconstitutional. Here, Trump demonstrates that he has no reservations about tearing the GOP asunder... now the majority party of Trump, versus the establishment, no-count old-guard hangers-on.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society. -John Lewis, statesman and civil rights activist (21 Feb 1940-2020)

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