Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives

a-to-z-letters-2013Hello. It’s H-Day in the A to Z Challenge.

H is for Hyphens

Hyphens have been called lots of names: left-over punctuation marks, “the smallest of the little  hyphenhorizontal line thingies” (The Grammar Cat), and “short and sweet” as compared to the dash which is long and lean (Laurie Rozakis, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style).  Laurie Rozakis says that the dash and the hyphen are like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito: Confused so often they are taken for each other.

Sometimes called stacked modifiers, or make-it-up-as-you-go adjectives, these adjectives can be humorous if used sparingly, or annoying if overused. This is a “what-you-may-have-been-wondering-about topic” (Grammar Girl), or maybe not.

They look something like this:

  • He has a jump-off-the-page personality.
  • We went to a shoot-em-up movie.
  • I’m a pretty easy-going, live-and-let-live kinda girl.

Personally, I’m a love-those-hyphenated-compound-adjectives-kind-of-person! Evidently a few other writers like these phrasal adjectives, too. Here are a few samples.

So What. Who Cares?oh-my cat

Of course, these stacked adjectives can get silly if they are overused, but somehow, just once-in-awhile, a stacked adjective does the job.    This one, for example:  “my good-for-nothing, pot-smoking, boyfriend-of-the-moment…” (Heather Marie Adkins). Now that one just gets right to the point.

The Last Meow

Terribly Cute pic...cat attitudeNow to the really important stuff. Here’s how to make cat faces on your very own keyboard. How’s that for a neat cat trick?

=<^ . ^>=   Meow for now.

What’s your favorite hyphenated stacked modifier?

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15 thoughts on “Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives

  1. Personally, I love hyphens and I tend to go crazy with them. Writing science fiction lends itself to hyphens. In fact, science fiction used to be hyphenated. Don’t see that much any more.
    == (alien cat)

    • Hyphens do show how language changes over time. Electronic mail goes to e-mail, to email. Usage prevails. I have not noticed that science fiction lends itself to hyphens, but now that you mention it, I will pick up a sci-fi and read it. Thanks for your comment, Nancy.

  2. Carol Millward on said:

    You are so amazing at this. You spend many hours researching or you are a speed reader. I am a rather-knit-and play Mah Jongg – kind of person, but I really enjoy your blogs. It would take me days to come up with the clever quotes you reference. We are a camping-in- the- woods -couple for a few days, returning home tomorrow.

    • Thanks, Carol, for being such a faithful reader. I am a speed reader, but I also spend hours in research. Now that I am retired I can devote more time to writing. I do want to learn MahJong though. Maybe next winter in Florida. Enjoy the camping.

  3. The best blog post I’ve read in awhile – as was the last one I read about compliments and complements. I know the stuff you write about, and I so appreciate your way of writing about it! Obviously you have taught beyond ESL – which is the only English I’ve taught and seldom have I taught a level high enough for them to understand anything about any of this 🙂 I love the last example. Though am wondering if the guy was a no-good-for-nothing because he smoked pot, or if he smoked pot because so many people labelled him a no-good-for nothing. Just a wonder:)

    • Thanks, Alison. I have quite a varied background. I started out in special education, then moved to elementary administration, then after retirement I moved back to part-time teaching in an on-site school at a residential drug and alcohol rehab program (Recovery Services of New Jersey). Along the way I was an administrator at Hong Kong International School. Loved that experience. In the rehab program, I taught English, writing, and computer applications.

      • English, writing and computer applications. What topics did you cover in computer?

      • I taught Word, MSPublisher, Excel, and PowerPoint. We also used a few graphics programs. I tried to do projects and left the text on the desk. We turned out some pretty good newsletters with original poetry from rehab students. We also did a bit of photojournalism on special classroom projects. I was fun, but I’m glad I was only teaching part-time. Teaching is hard work.

      • Teaching is hard work. And it’s so important that every student be treated the same, and it’s so easy to miss or damage a brilliant, gifted student due to bullying jealous types who are expert manipulators.

      • Were you a teacher, Alison? Yes, gifted children sometimes hide their intelligence because they are afraid of being teased or bullied. That is so sad. I started out as a special ed teacher and saw this happen to kids on both ends of the spectrum.

  4. I love this! I use them all the time, am made for them, should be arrested for my over-the-top-but-I-don’t-care attitude toward them. Today I wrote a small poem (small stone, a la Writing Our Way Home-style) about my Alaskan Malamute taking cover in the bathroom during the very loud thunderstorms her in Malaysia, ‘head on his paw-pillow’. It got lovely comments and I’m certain it was that one little set-it-apart-hyphen. One or ten-in-a-bloomin’-row, I love ’em! You made my blog-reading day, Janice.

    Cynthia Reed, writing historical fiction set during the Crimean War.

  5. Pingback: L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck | JaniceHeck

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