The new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has far fewer of everyone's favorite little connector. Editors have dropped 16,000 hyphens from all sorts of compound words: "Fig-leaf" is now "fig leaf," "chick-pea" has become "chickpea." Email is the culprit, reports the BBC: writers no longer have time or patience to reach for the hypyen key. Says the Shorter's editor, "It's starting to look a lot like something your grandmother might write."
Speakers of French or Japanese can turn to governing bodies for official language decrees, but lexicographers have to struggle to keep up with the unregulated nature of English. The OED and its shorter edition derive their entries from a corpus of texts, and, said editor Angus Stevenson, "We are only reflecting widespread everyday use."