or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Internet Addiction

I am not a mystically minded person, but sometimes it honestly seems as if the universe is trying to shove you in a particular direction, doesn't it?

Yesterday I was reading something or other on the Internet (of course I was--I hardly ever read books or magazines any more, and if I'm not working or sleeping, I'm probably reading), and I tried to get to an article in the New Yorker which wasn't available without a subscription. I thought about it: only $39.95 for a whole year, which gives you a year's access to the entire archive of the magazine from 1925 to the newest issue. I made a note and decided to think about it.

This morning I was reading something else and found a reference to an old Edmund Wilson piece I thought I should read, so I checked to see if it was available online. It was available...in a 1945 issue of The New Yorker.

And so I subscribed. And it is heroin. No, cocaine. No, a heroin-and-cocaine speedball. I can't tear myself away.

"Can you download images from it?" asked Jim. A quick test proved that you could, and I thought to myself, this has a whole lot of blog potential.

Here's page 44 of the January 13, 1945, issue:

And here is a close-up of the relevant portion:

and it's my old friend (and nemesis to the careless writer), the hyphen, in action. As I feel like I've said so many times before, when you're hyphenating a phrase, it's all or nothing: either a hyphen goes between every word, or you don't use them at all. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, you may say "two-and-a-half", or you may say "two and a half", but you most emphatically may not ever say "two-and-a half".

Anyway, they got it wrong from the get-go, because if the phrase "two and a half" precedes the noun which it's modifying, which adjectives nearly always do in English, then you use no hyphens whatever. (To hyphenate it correctly, the phrase would be have been "a two-and-a-half-century-old name".)

We certainly can't blame the proofreaders at the New Yorker for that one: the ad was what's called camera-ready, and needed only to be pasted down and printed. I would imagine there were more than a couple of rolled eyes at the magazine that day, though.


Blogger ScentScelf said...


(Just found this blog, though I've been to/through your fragrance blog many times. Have made my way down to this article from the top...this is going to be fun.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

If you like etymology, grammar, sniping at random avoidable mistake in English usage, and general discussions of language and languages--some of the things that make life worth living--then yes, this is going to be fun (I'm on the verge of my thousandth post). Enjoy!

I see you've written about Mitsouko recently. I keep trying, but it keeps eluding me. Maybe once I've tried the EDP....

Monday, December 22, 2008 6:27:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home