Friday, July 30, 2010

They're Just Like Us

Cindy Crawford was my high school sweetheart’s celebrity crush. On the one hand, it was cool because at least she and I both had brown hair and brown eyes. On the other hand, it sucked because that’s where the similarities ended. She’s a Pisces; I’m a Capricorn. She’s from Illinois; I’m from California. She has legs that go on for days; I have legs that go on from Monday 11-11:45 (noon in heels).

Imagine how daunting it was to go through the awkward high school years with this as my competition:

I was so relieved when I read an interview with Cindy in which she said, “Even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford in the morning.”

Take that, High School Boyfriend!

Well, if Cindy is brave enough to admit that she’s not as perfect as people think she is, then I guess I can do the same. You see, as you can probably imagine, I am the grammar go-to gal on campus. I receive daily phone calls requesting grammar advice from my colleagues. And, sometimes I do know the answer off the top of my head. My secret shame is that often I will Google their questions. Of course, I don’t tell anyone this. I like people to think I’m perfect.

One of the questions I am rarely confident about answering is when I’m asked if two words should be hyphenated, like should it be long legged or long-legged? But, here’s the good news: my grammar gurus don’t always know either. For example, Grammar Girl wrote, “The safest thing to do when you're unsure about hyphenating is to look the words up in a dictionary.” Diane Hacker wrote, “The dictionary will tell you whether to treat a compound word as a hyphenated compound, as one word, or as two words. If the compound word is not in the dictionary, then treat it as two words.”

So, yes, double check with the dictionary, but here are some rules that may help when you are writing in the jungle and have forgotten your dictionary and can’t get Wi-Fi:

· Use a hyphen when two or more words work together to describe a noun.

Sexy-model behavior

(The way sexy models behave)

Sexy model behavior

(When being good is deemed sexy)

· Use a hyphen between compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.

· Use a hyphen with the prefixes self-, ex-, and all-.

My ex-boyfriend’s all-consuming obsession with Cindy Crawford did not boost my self-esteem.

If only I were a Pisces from Illinois!


Boonsong said...

Love the photos! - and a really useful grammar explanation too! What a bonus.

Pisces....? - I have been from time to time.

Have a nice day, Boonsong

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for this post. To use or not to use a hyphen plagues me.

You are the Cindy Crawford of Grammar!

I'd like to come back looking like Christy Turlington in my next life.

Georgina Dollface said...

I'm guilty of randomly misusing hyphens. I also probably overuse them when I don't know whether I should use a comma or a semicolon. And how is it that those models were OLDER than me when they burst onto the scene in the early nineties, but now they all still look younger than me? No fair. - G

Talli Roland said...

I'm guilty of over-using hyphens. And semi-colons. And em-dashes. I really need to get ahold of myself.

Jill Elizabeth said...

In the American Medical Association Style guide (what we follow in my line of work), the definition is very foggy, saying to use them in compound adjectives when the intended meaning is unclear without one. So basically, a judgment call!

Stephen Tremp said...

Yeah, Cindy Crawford's freakin' amazing. Good to know she's still like the rest of us first thing in the morning. Amd loved the Austin Powers pic. I'm laughing just thinking of that thing, baby.

Stephen Tremp

BlackLOG said...

Glad I'm not in your class, I would be in all sorts of trouble and you would probably have to order extra boxes of red pens. As for using a dictionary to decide on using a hyphen in words or not, does it not depend on the dictionary you are using. With so many different versions I'm thinking of creating my own one so that I can get away with some of my creative word play….

Gail said...

I am guilty of many errors and fall back on the excuse of dramatic effect.

It is nice to know the old words my parents drilled into my head, LOOK IT UP, still works.

I can't help but feel I will get this comment back, marked in red!

DEZMOND said...

I'll never learn how to use hyphens in English. I think I just have the linguistics of too many different languages in my head and it's all starting to mix in my poor limited brain :))

Ellie said...

I like hyphens, but my real passion is commas. It is a sad affair. I love them soooo much! I think, I pause in thought and then add one. My son teased me about it, when I had him read one of my wip. He said, "Mom, no one talks like that". I thought about his criticism. He is right, then it struck me. Captain James T. Kirk, talks like I write. I have to go back and edit my comma love, when I do I see Jim speaking my words and it works.

Wendy Ramer said...

You know what's worse? When your husband's celebrity fantasy isn't a 20-something but Marissa Tomei - a 40-something who is my contemporary. So now I've got to worry that I'm being compared to a 40-something-yr-old who has a killer body, b/c Yes, it's possible! Ugh.

Janet Johnson said...

Great pointers on the hyphenated words. Those can be so tricky. And I totally am with you. Google is my friend. :)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I'm completely distracted by the pictures.

kathryn said...

Wonderful post! I remember seeing an interview with the chick from Desperate Housewives...Eva (something) Parker? She talked about all the stuff she takes off when she gets extensions, false eyelashes, makeup, spanx...she said you'd never recognize her.

Hey, a little Photoshop here...a tuck there...we could ALL look like Cindy!

notesfromnadir said...

A Capricorn from California sounds better. Plus, you're the sign of reverse aging.

Thanks for the hyphen tips.