absent-minded OR absentminded

audiolaik

Senior Member
Polish
Hello,

I've always thought that the word absent-minded needs a hyphen. Unfortunately, I came across the word in question written as one word, namely absentminded. I found the latter in the book "The Godfather's Revenge". Which form, in your opinion, is more common?

Thank you.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    "absent-minded". I would even go so far as to say that "absentminded" is incorrect although it may be one of those words that has just been melded together because the concept is so common.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    These things often change over time, Audio: two separate words > hyphenated word > single word with no hyphen.

    I'm pretty sure I still write absent-minded. But I don't think I'd notice if I read absentminded.

    EDIT: Bibbles' post has made me ponder on what I write for the adverb and the noun. I think I'd probably opt for the unhyphenated version in both cases: absentmindedly, absentmindedness.
    Go figure, as our American cousins say....
     
    Last edited:

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "absent-minded". I would even go so far as to say that "absentminded" is incorrect although it may be one of those words that has just been melded together because the concept is so common.

    absentminded Aadjective1 absent, absentminded, abstracted, scatty
    lost in thought; showing preoccupation; "an absent stare"; "an absentminded professer"; "the scatty glancing quality of a hyperactive but unfocused intelligence"
    source
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I just had this discussion yesterday about "home-style". I would always hyphenate it but many would use "homestyle". I still contend that the word-meld (wordmeld?) isn't technically correct (in my humble opinion) but I've already conceded that it's not surprising. I wouldn't do it because, to me, it's not logical.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I just had this discussion yesterday about "home-style". I would always hyphenate it but many would use "homestyle". I still contend that the word-meld (wordmeld?) isn't technically correct (in my humble opinion) but I've already conceded that it's not surprising. I wouldn't do it because, to me, it's not logical.
    As has been pointed out earlier, there is a progression, probably based on frequency of use and time, from two words to a hyphenated construction, and finally to a single compound word. I don't have any particular opinion, humble or otherwise, about what measure one should use to determine what is "technically correct". Do we have a source, say some nice 1850s prescriptivist grammarian, or a more recent edition of Fowler or Garner, to explain why things fall to one side or the other of "technically correct"?
     

    Hitchhiker

    Senior Member
    English-US
    American English often drops the hyphen that is more common in British English. It may be something more recent than just American English though as in "week-end" and "weekend".
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Can I just remind you of what the Oxford style guide used to state: If you worry too much about hyphens, you will surely go mad.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED headword is absent-minded.
    Similarly, it lists absent-mindedly and absent-mindedness.

    absent-minded: 1824, 1859, 1906, 1940, 2002
    absentminded: 1884, 1977
    absent minded: 1928

    absent-mindedly 1857, 1915, 1942
    absentmindedly 1996

    absent-mindedness 1845, 1869, 1938, 1994


    This doesn't prove anything, but it is mildly interesting :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Domcl said:
    Of course not - just my "becoming ever so much humbler" opinion. Thanks for the spanking - I needed that.
    Not a spanking, Dimcl, but a reminder to myself that sometimes non-native and native learners alike may take our words very seriously, as if we always had a righteous leg to stand on. I share your preference for the hyphenated version. My old habits are often slower to change than the speaking and writing patterns of the rest of the AEniverse.

    Now I'm scratching my head, wondering if dog house and fireplug are one word or two word constructions. A quick dictionary check tells me that dog house and doghouse are both kicking around, while fireplug is only present as a single word. Compare that with fire hydrant, which is more frequently a two word noun, but does seem to have a one word life as well.

    It is humbling to be unable to explain the logic, if any, that governs all of this.

    _____________________
    I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. —Samuel Johnson, Preface to his Dictionary.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I was just about to explain at length that I favour hyphens in all forms of the term just because I find the consonantcluster ntm a bit gruesome, but then I remembered I have an appointment elsewhere.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I was just about to explain at length that I favour hyphens in all forms of the term just because I find the consonantcluster ntm a bit gruesome, but then I remembered I have an appointment elsewhere.
    I just hope that the original poster has achieved some degree of contentment in regard to this matter.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I just hope that the original poster has achieved some degree of contentment in regard to this matter.
    Now that ewie has gone off to his appointment, we don't run the risk of creating a resentment on his part. I ask myself what a hyphen does to change the pronunciation of a pair of words or a compound word. I don't find a persuasive answer.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    It seems to me that the hyphen hasn't much to do with the actual pronunciation of the word, but is sometimes an aid to comprehension when the word is read. As opposed to a the closed form, a word that is broken into its constituent parts is sometimes easier to recognize : absent-minded may be more quickly grasped than absentminded.

    As opposed to unhyphenated words, the link provided by the hyphen may be helpful for grasping two words as a unit: an absent-minded child is not for the flicker of a moment thought to be an absent child, who is minded.

    I propose these as explanations of the use that we make of hyphens when they are there, and why we might prefer them, not as an explanation of why some words are hyphenated and others not.
     
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