Sometimes the creation is another human being:
Sometimes it’s the perfect woman:
Words can also come together to create something unique.
They often merge together to form one word:
fore + play = foreplay
You’d think that when fore and play came together to form one word it would mean before play, like we would say, “Foreplay, I think we should stretch.” But, no; it has an altogether different meaning. (It may still be a good idea to stretch, though.)
Sometimes words come together to form a hyphenated word:
half + mast = half-mast
And sometimes, two words, although they don’t merge into one or use a hyphen, stand side-by-side to create new meaning:
For example, although Bill Clinton was a president with a vice, we wouldn’t call him a vice president.
So, when we’re writing, when do we know if two words make one word, a hyphenated word, or stand side-by-side?
If you’re a linguistics major, you’re in luck. Apparently, compound words of Germanic origin tend to be written as one word. History majors may also have an advantage; the longer the words have been used together, the more likely they are to have merged into one over time.
But, notice I used the words tend to and more likely. There are no set rules.
I mean, why is schoolwork one word, but school day two? Why does mind-boggling have a hyphen, but mind games doesn’t?
I guess that’s the beauty of creation, though, isn’t it? It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. It’s awe inspiring. Or is that awe-inspiring?
Google, here I come.
Dedicated to Theresa Milstein