Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Oct 2013 12:21 UTC
In the News

So, The New York Times has updated its style guide, and the most intriguing change - for me - is that NYT editors are now allowed to spell e-mail as 'email'.

"By popular demand, we're going to remove the hyphen from e-mail," wrote Times editor Patrick LaForge in a post on the newsroom's internal blog, he confirmed in an email. The Times had been one of the last holdouts still using the hyphenated "e-mail," a vestige of the "information superhighway" era of the Internet. The AP stylebook removed the hyphen in email in 2011. But the e- prefix is not completely dead at The Times; e-book will maintain its hyphenated status.

E-mail is actually a very problematic word in Dutch as well. Technically speaking, 'e-mail' is an abbreviation of 'electronic mail'. In Dutch, compound nouns consisting of a loose letter or acronym combined with a regular noun are always hyphenated (for instance, we write 'tv-zender', which means 'TV channel'). This means that the the noun 'e-mail' is always hyphenated in Dutch. This is where it gets interesting.

Many Dutch people, especially in casual writing, spell 'e-mail' without a hyphen. Personally, I would never do this, since correct spelling and grammar is a huge part of my job (I'm a translator with my own little translation business), but it's still quite common. This is quite problematic because 'email' without a hyphen means something completely different. 'Email', in Dutch, means 'enamel', as in tooth enamel. For language geeks such as myself, reading "Ik stuur je wel even een email" ("I'll send you an enamel") is weirdly hilarious.

The hyphenation rule regarding compound nouns with single letters or acronyms is a very solid rule in Dutch, and it's unlikely an exception will be made for e-mail.

We can go even deeper into the intricacies of the Dutch language. Obviously, 'e-mail' can function both as a noun and as a verb - which, obviously, can be conjugated. This is where the idiosyncrasies of the Dutch language really start adding up, leading to what can only be regarded as one of the biggest abominations recently added to Dutch. Here's a summarised present tense/paste tense conjugation of the Dutch verb 'e-mailen':

ik e-mail ik e-mailde
hij/zij e-mailt hij/zij e-mailde
wij e-mailen wij e-mailden

So far, so good - this doesn't look very weird to native Dutch speakers. Now let's take a look at the past participle, used in a present perfect (as a sidenote: I'm not sure I'm using the correct English grammatical terms for all the tenses - I purposefully unlearned those years ago because I found they interfered with my instinctive ability to form proper English tenses).

ik heb ge-e-maild

Double hyphen! Even though this is correct, proper Dutch verb conjugation and spelling, many language experts will actually advise against using this, urging people to come up with workarounds ("Ik heb een e-mail gestuurd"; "I have sent an e-mail") instead. The weird thing is that in speech, 'ge-e-maild' sounds perfectly fine; in writing, however, it looks like you're stuttering while choking on a chili pepper. It's just... Wrong. Even though it's correct.

There are more instances like this, where the rise of computer technology and the dominance of English has spawned some seriously disturbing Dutch verb conjugations (my personal favourite: 'ge-ftp'd'). These clearly look alien and foreign to us Dutch today, and only time will tell if they ever get assimilated into Dutch spelling in such a way that they will lose their alien nature.

Order by: Score:
Comment by sb56637
by sb56637 on Thu 24th Oct 2013 12:52 UTC
sb56637
Member since:
2006-05-11

Interesting observations.

Since you are picky about details, here's a quick error correction:
chocking on a chili pepper ->
choking on a chili pepper
;)

In the Latin American Spanish speaking country where I live, there is a rather strange trend of using the word "mail" (in English) to say "e-mail". Whenever someone tells me "Ya te envié un mail", my first reaction is to go check at the post office. :p

Edited 2013-10-24 12:52 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by sb56637
by Carewolf on Thu 24th Oct 2013 18:59 UTC in reply to "Comment by sb56637"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

That is normal practice in Danish as well. It is rather convinient, maybe we should propose it to the Dutch.

* Ofcourse official danish would be E-post but nobody have said that in 20 years.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by sb56637
by lproven on Sat 26th Oct 2013 12:26 UTC in reply to "Comment by sb56637"
lproven Member since:
2006-08-23

Happily not a problem in proper British English, where the word "mail" is the service that delivers it, but the thing that it delivers is "post". You take your letters to the Post Office to post them to someone, and the Royal Mail carries them there for you, where they're posted through the recipient's letter-box.

The etymology of "mail" is the bag that messages were put into for carriage, rather than the contents of the bag, you see.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by M.Onty
by M.Onty on Thu 24th Oct 2013 12:54 UTC
M.Onty
Member since:
2009-10-23

Thanks for the interesting article Thom.

These clearly look alien and foreign to us Dutch today, and only time will tell if they ever get assimilated into Dutch spelling in such a way that they will lose their alien nature.


What is particularly interesting is that most of this class of new words don't belong to any particular language, & so sit awkwardly with most of them. However because English has a greater than normal history of crudely assimilating foreign (e.g. Indian) words as a matter of course, & because the more centrally controlled & insecure languages (e.g. French) have a habit of classifying anything non-native as an Anglo-Saxon imperial beachhead into their culture, all these new words are assumed to be English.

Edit: I should probably clarify "insecure". I meant a language which is carefully guarded against supposedly unwanted external influences, as the native speakers worry about the language's future. Its curious that L'Académie française has this attitude as French let loose of its protection would probably grow faster.

Edited 2013-10-24 13:06 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by M.Onty
by Carewolf on Thu 24th Oct 2013 19:02 UTC in reply to "Comment by M.Onty"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

English didn't as much assimilate other languages as getting conquered by them. Original Britan + Anglo-Saxon + Danish + French + 800 years..

E'voila: English

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by M.Onty
by M.Onty on Fri 25th Oct 2013 01:07 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by M.Onty"
M.Onty Member since:
2009-10-23

English didn't as much assimilate other languages as getting conquered by them. Original Britan + Anglo-Saxon + Danish + French + 800 years..

E'voila: English


There's practically no Celtic in English in fact. The language effectively started with the Angles & the Saxons. However as England was was indeed conquered first by Danish speaking Danes & then by French speaking Danes (the Normans were Norse who went native & discovered the joys of horses), its language did become highly malleable. If you get to choose between a Germanic & a Latinate option in almost any context, adding a few more options hardly seems to matter one way or the other.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by M.Onty
by Delgarde on Fri 25th Oct 2013 03:49 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by M.Onty"
Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

English didn't as much assimilate other languages as getting conquered by them. Original Britan + Anglo-Saxon + Danish + French + 800 years..


In early days, certainly. In more recent centuries, it's mostly been the other way around... words taken from native languages where it was the English-speakers doing the conquering (military or otherwise).

Or simply from trade and communication between cultures - consider such words as manga or sushi, karaoke or origami. They're certainly of Japanese origin, but used widely enough in English to appear in dictionaries...

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by M.Onty
by unclefester on Fri 25th Oct 2013 04:09 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by M.Onty"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

English didn't as much assimilate other languages as getting conquered by them.


English is considered by linguists to a Germanic language (closely related to Dutch) despite freely borrowing a vast number of words from other languages.

English was introduced to Britain from the 5th Century onwards. The Celtic language and culture was essentially completely replaced by Norse culture in England.

The Normans were French speaking people of Norse origin. The French language of the Normans never used by ordinary people and was no longer used officially after the 1300s.

Britain was never invaded again after 1066.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Comment by M.Onty
by Carewolf on Sun 27th Oct 2013 13:20 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by M.Onty"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

English is considered by linguists to a Germanic language (closely related to Dutch) despite freely borrowing a vast number of words from other languages.


Closely related to Frisian, not Dutch.

Edited 2013-10-27 13:20 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by M.Onty
by henderson101 on Mon 28th Oct 2013 12:19 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by M.Onty"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Though the grammar is very different to both Frisian and Dutch and bears more of a resemblance to Continental Scandinavian. There's even a controversial hypothesis that English grammar is actually based on the languages spoken in the Danelaw.

Reply Score: 2

Interesting
by Drunkula on Thu 24th Oct 2013 13:06 UTC
Drunkula
Member since:
2009-09-03

Makes me wonder if I can bastard up another solution to the conundrum. How about instead of email or e-mail it could be a contraction such as e'mail?

Reply Score: 2

Comment by ddc_
by ddc_ on Thu 24th Oct 2013 13:24 UTC
ddc_
Member since:
2006-12-05

There are more instances like this, where the rise of computer technology and the dominance of English has spawned some seriously disturbing Dutch verb conjugations (my personal favourite: 'ge-ftp'd'). These clearly look alien and foreign to us Dutch today, and only time will tell if they ever get assimilated into Dutch spelling in such a way that they will lose their alien nature.

I doubt there is a language where abbreviation spelled in lowercase used as a substitute for verb isn't alien.


FWIW in Russian we never had this issue - the early attempt at localizing 'e-mail' as 'э-почта' or 'е-почта' failed before e-mail went mainstream, and the common language trends took over:

1. We tend to translate things in formal style conversations, so e-mail gets expressed as "электронная почта", though it frequently gets trimmed to just "почта" (Russian for 'mail'), eg. "Отправить по почте" (literally "send via mail").
2. We tend to use English terms in semi-formal or technical conversations, so 'e-mail' is frequently used as is, though most often conjugated. This form is almost never used in writing - we hate switching keyboard layouts to go to Latin alphabet.
3. We tend to replace the loan words with unrelated Russian words sounding similar, so one would most likely use words 'мыло' (Russian for noun 'soap') and sometimes derivatives of 'мылить' (Russian for verb 'soap').


In Serbo-Croatian the word 'e-mail' is used hyphenated as is in formal writing with 'elektronska pošta' or 'e-pošta' (translation) coming next. Apparently the translation appears to trend down, as the informal language gets swarmed by the computer-related words from English - thanks Microsoft there were no Serbo-Croatian localizations of Windows products until recently. Generally the language tends to spell the words as they sound, and I'm noticing some weak 'e-majl' usage, though it doesn't seem to take off really. (And it largely misrepresent the sounding of the word actually.)

Edited 2013-10-24 13:25 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by ddc_
by lproven on Sat 26th Oct 2013 12:20 UTC in reply to "Comment by ddc_"
lproven Member since:
2006-08-23

Interesting!

Is there not a reverse-Volapuk, for transliterating Latin-alphabet words into Cyrillic as there is for spelling Cyrillic words in Latin?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volapuk_encoding

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by ddc_
by ddc_ on Sun 27th Oct 2013 23:20 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ddc_"
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

It looks like you're overestimating the importance of this "Volapuk" thing - it was trendy back in the days of weak to absent support of Cyrillic script in appliances and applications, and has faded away since. Anyway, "Volapuk" is a mere mean of transliteration, while the thing I discussed above has an actual impact on the language.

And no, there is no notable "reverse Volapuk" thing. The situations for "reverse Volapuk" are served with homonyms and (in some cases) weird counter-intuitive jargon. Eg. in Russian there's a proper translation for "SUV" - "внедорожник", though the predominant term is "Джип" (transliteration of "Jeep") due to historical reasons younger people may not know now.

Reply Score: 2

No hyphen?
by fretinator on Thu 24th Oct 2013 14:28 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

E-gads!

Reply Score: 5

I prefer the hyphen over the diaeresis
by timl on Thu 24th Oct 2013 15:08 UTC
timl
Member since:
2005-12-06

It may take up an entire character, but it makes for a lot clearer separation between two vowels belonging to different syllables. But I agree ge-e-maild looks rather silly.

They're also very useful in combating the idiotic tendency of Dutch (and other Germanic languages) to form insanely long words by concatenating shorter ones. Keeping them apart (like English does) can occasionally cause a shift in meaning, but a well-placed hyphen can be quite helpful. Hottentottententententoonstelling may be a somewhat extreme and artificial example, it is still a bear of a word to read.

The worst example of blindly applying Dutch grammar rules to foreign words must be "geüpdatete". Not only does the diaeresis on the u look completely foreign: I cannot think of a native Dutch word with diaeresis on a u, so it immediately looks like a German u with an umlaut; it also adds a "visual stutter" at the end that isn't there in the pronunciation and is quite unnecessary to determine the meaning.

I guess that's what you get when you put an official body with representatives from several governments in charge of your language :-S

Reply Score: 2

Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

I guess that's what you get when you put an official body with representatives from several governments in charge of your language :-S


Germany is much more liberal: Here, private corporations, publishers of dictionaries, newspapers, textbooks, educational material and everyone else is totally free in how to write. There are no mandatory rules anymore since the beginning of the continuous "spelling reforms" in the mid-90s. Politicians have totally lost to the chaos they've created, and people just don't care anymore. So no matter if you write "E-Mail" (the only correct german spelling), "email", "Email", "eMail", "e-Mail", "e Mail", "e'Mail", "e`mail" or "@Mail" (or any imaginable variation or combination of them) - it simply doesn't matter anymore. Nobody notices, nobody cares. :-)

Reply Score: 4

mkowalik Member since:
2012-08-06

So no matter if you write "E-Mail" (the only correct german spelling), "email", "Email", "eMail", "e-Mail", "e Mail", "e'Mail", "e`mail" or "@Mail" (or any imaginable variation or combination of them) - it simply doesn't matter anymore. Nobody notices, nobody cares. :-)

the question stays, though, der die oder das? ;) (always my biggest trouble while learning German language)

Edited 2013-10-25 08:51 UTC

Reply Score: 2

smoerk Member since:
2009-07-10

the question stays, though, der die oder das? ;) (always my biggest trouble while learning German language)


"die" or "das", but never "der" ;) . In spoken language we often use just "mail".

Reply Score: 3

Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

the question stays, though, der die oder das? ;) (always my biggest trouble while learning German language)


Again, authoritative answer: Doesn't matter, nobody cares. :-)

It's common to understand "die E-Mail" as feminum "she" (unlike its english origin "the e-mail" which is neutrum, "it"), probably as an analogy of "die elektronische Post" (die Post: f) or "die elektronische Nachricht" (die Nachricht: f), as the original "mail" can refer to the medium, the message as a whole and the message content as the same time. This "feels correct".

I've also already seen "das E-Mail" (neutrum), but not "der E-Mail" (masculinum), which will probably arrive within the next decade along with further degrading of basic (and therefore fully unneccessary) cultural techniques such as reading and spelling. :-)

Der die das,
wer wie was,
wieso weshalb warum -
wer nicht fragt, bleibt dumm.

This satisfies today's requirement of educational content. :-)

Reply Score: 4

Comment by matej
by matej on Thu 24th Oct 2013 16:04 UTC
matej
Member since:
2007-05-27

Ok, it may not look nice. But still, it is a very good that the grammar rules are kept intact. The more grammar exceptions, the more difficult it will be to learn the language. For instance, French would be much easier to learn if they had fewer exceptions in their verb conjugations. In English and Mandarin conjugating verbs is much easier to learn.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by jweinraub
by jweinraub on Thu 24th Oct 2013 19:01 UTC
jweinraub
Member since:
2009-06-22

I am waiting to see internet and web to stop being used as proper nouns. We don't capitalise radio, cable, so why is internet and web still? They are mediums. I know wired held that position for a while, but maybe it is a pet peeve of mine now, but seeing Web and Internet, I cringe each time.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by abstraction
by abstraction on Thu 24th Oct 2013 23:36 UTC
abstraction
Member since:
2008-11-27

In Sweden we took the English word mail and made it implicitly mean e-mail but we spell it 'mejl' so we don't really need to use the e- notation. We just say mejl (as in _a_ e-mail) or mejla (to e-mail someone). For ordinary snail mails we have a totally different word that can't be confused.

Edited 2013-10-24 23:36 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by abstraction
by nbensa on Fri 25th Oct 2013 02:07 UTC in reply to "Comment by abstraction"
nbensa Member since:
2005-08-29

In Argentina (Buenos Aires at least) we use the English word "mail" to mean e-mail. Snail mail is "carta" in spanish, so there's no confussion either.

Reply Score: 3

v Does anyone care?
by cmost on Fri 25th Oct 2013 00:15 UTC
Email has been around for much longer
by unclefester on Fri 25th Oct 2013 04:16 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

There is an Australian electrical appliance company called 'Email'. They have been around for many decades.

Reply Score: 3

native form vs "mail"
by Guido Draheim on Fri 25th Oct 2013 06:07 UTC
Guido Draheim
Member since:
2006-01-12

It seems that many people around the world have come to drop the "e-" from "e-mail" simply using "mail" in their native language. This works as "mail" is not ambiguous when there is another word for snail mail - in most Germanic languages this would be "brief" (Dutch, German) or "brev" (Danish, Swedish). For Spanish one can use "carta" as another commentator has shown.

I see that the official guidelines in Germany, Duden and Wikipedia, have retained "E-Mail" as the only correct form. In a more colloquial style the e- is dropped, and sometimes the spelling is even modified into "mäil" to give proper correspondence with pronunciation. Since the official guidelines don't show the use as a verb, the conjugated form looks like "ich hab's dir gemailt" (I have e-mail'ed it to you).

Reply Score: 3

RE: native form vs "mail"
by zima on Fri 25th Oct 2013 17:33 UTC in reply to "native form vs "mail""
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Indeed that seems to become a rule in many places; it's so at least also in Polish...

Reply Score: 3

A question ...
by matako on Fri 25th Oct 2013 09:57 UTC
matako
Member since:
2009-02-13

Lower case version seems problematic even in English. You know, T-shirts and e-mails. ;)

Besides, I have always regarded the whole e- prefix thing as a 90s fad, e-mail being the sole survivor.

Reply Score: 3

RE: A question ...
by lproven on Sat 26th Oct 2013 12:23 UTC in reply to "A question ..."
lproven Member since:
2006-08-23

Ah, but "T" there is not an abbreviation, it's a pictogram. It's showing the *shape* of a T-shirt. Also see: "U-turn". That's why it's capitalised: because the shirt is not shaped like a "t". It would be a very strange garment if it were.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: A question ...
by matako on Sun 27th Oct 2013 11:07 UTC in reply to "RE: A question ..."
matako Member since:
2009-02-13

Oh, you're right. Something about spelling out capital letters confused me.

Still, to define these messages as "electronic" is somehow lame. Old cables could have been named e-cables, for "electric". ;)

On the other hand, given the time period of the term we were lucky it hadn't got the name c-mail. For "cyber"!

Edited 2013-10-27 11:08 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Dutch is tough for a non native speaker..
by DanDavies on Fri 25th Oct 2013 11:22 UTC
DanDavies
Member since:
2013-02-23

I'm currently living in the Netherlands and trying to learn Dutch. Although Dutch and English are related Germanic languages my brain regularly BSODs. Especially true last weekend when I was in Maastricht and tried to wrap my head around Limburgs (guru meditation error).

Hopefully one day I'll grok it.

Reply Score: 2

abstraction Member since:
2008-11-27

This is a bit off-topic. I love that you use the word grok because it is such a beautiful word but for me at least it is a word I don't use as a substitute for know, learn or understand. When you grok something it becomes part of your identity in an almost spiritual way and the experience will forever change how you view things around you from that moment. It doesn't happen very often so use it with care =)

Reply Score: 4

Meh...
by UltraZelda64 on Fri 25th Oct 2013 15:35 UTC
UltraZelda64
Member since:
2006-12-05

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I still almost always use the hyphen in e-mail. The only major exception is when I am typing quickly and do not want to waste any extra time (ie. instant messaging). It just seems lazy to me to exclude it, and it doesn't make much sense as a word in English reading it as "email" either...

Edited 2013-10-25 15:36 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Comment by weckart
by weckart on Fri 25th Oct 2013 16:38 UTC
weckart
Member since:
2006-01-11

I thought that maybe Dutch would just put a diaeresis on the second e and avoid a double hyphen (geë-maild) but Taaladvies suggests that another hyphen is mandatory in the past participle of compound nouns with a single letter prefix.

Another example given is internet banking: ge-i-bankierd

Reply Score: 2

Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Sat 26th Oct 2013 04:34 UTC
ilovebeer
Member since:
2011-08-08

Since e-mail/email is causing such controversy, just start using dmail/d-mail/d.mail/whatever and pretend it means digital mail.

Reply Score: 3

Other examples
by jal_ on Mon 28th Oct 2013 11:34 UTC
jal_
Member since:
2006-11-02

Another case where the double hyphen rears its ugly head is in noun compounds, like "notificatie-e-mail".

As for "ge-ftp'd", I think the ugliest word (though without a hyphen) is "geüpdatet" (or the past tense "updatete"), which is an example of a blatent violation of normal Dutch spelling rules by introducing a completely silent suffix (pronounciation /xəˈypˌdeɪt/, /ˈypˌdeɪtə/), just to adhere to the rule "there always shall be a suffix", using the English "stem" of the verb, instead of the Dutch stem "updat" from the verb "updaten".

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Gregory Isaacs
by Gregory Isaacs on Mon 28th Oct 2013 18:36 UTC
Gregory Isaacs
Member since:
2006-06-30

In German the correct abbreviation should be e-Mail from "elektronische Mail". People here then tend to use the forms "gemailt" for having sent an e-mail, leaving away the "e".

Reply Score: 1