Traditional Japanese or Great White?

Is this hyphenated?We are fond of poking fun at the German language and its fondness for compound nouns.  Nicholas Richards does this excellently in his sketch (in German with English commentary) Zum Speisen mit der Langewörtergesellschaft.  This might be rendered as ‘Dinner with the Society for Long Words’, but putting it in that way neglects the fact that English is also a Germanic language.  In English, it could also be written as ‘Dinner with the Long Words Society’; you can’t say that in a Latinate language.  (Try it in French or Spanish; ‘long’ becomes a qualifying adjective and the society is a society for something.)  No, the difference between English and German in this respect is that in German all the nouns get joined together.  We do that too, of course – think of ‘weekend’ or, more recently, ‘website’, but not as often, nor to the same length.

Compound nouns get joined together in English when they are in common usage when the single idea created by a compound noun becomes a single word.  Prior to that, there’s our friend the hyphen.  This really comes into its own when it is desirable to show which parts of the noun phrase are being joined to form the single idea.  For example, there is a world of difference between seventeen-year-old girls and seventeen year-old girls.  A hyphen makes the difference between the man eating shark and the man-eating shark.


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