Notes, Asides, Memories — and Hyphens

by Jay Nordlinger

If you’re looking for diversion, I have a piece that might serve: “Notes, Asides, and Memories.” It came about because I was cleaning out my office. (NR is about to move.) I unearthed files of old correspondence — and smiled (mainly) upon flipping through it.

In this piece, I touch on the great and the good, the famous and infamous, an extraordinary cast of characters — beginning with Jim Geraghty, who visited NR in 2001 and wrote me a thank-you note after. (Kid was raised right.)

Some other names as we go along: Jean-François Revel, Czeslaw Milosz, Lucianne Goldberg, Bernard Lewis, Stephen Ambrose, Paul Johnson, Harold Bloom, Caspar Weinberger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Milton Friedman, George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, Gene Genovese …

… and Jim Buckley — Senator and Judge James L. Buckley — an illustrious sibling of you-know-who. In the late ’90s, JLB and I had a little back-and-forth about language. Do you entitle a book or title one?

JLB was arguing for the former, I for the latter. He said that his way had perhaps become archaic, “but as I myself am archaic, I feel more comfortable with it.” (Please note that, in 2017, Jim is still writing.)

Let me tell you a story of recent vintage. A few weeks ago, word came down from on high at NR that from now on we would not write “e-mail” but “email.” I can barely make my fingers type “email.” They rebel. For me, you have the letter “e,” all by its lonesome, followed by “mail.” “E-mail” — just like it sounds. They can pry the hyphen out of my cold dead hands.

But surely my forebears felt the same about “to-day” and “to-morrow” …

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