Wyrd Word

Posted on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 at 17:47

So I’m in the middle of ‘Cu17u12e 80m6’ revisions and corrections, using Word to spell and grammar check my punctuation and catch similar shaped words my dyslexia is prone to, and correct iPhones predonktive text (its is a word just like it’s and when I’m ill I don’t want to type I’ll!) when I spot one of those delightful error loops Word throws up…
It’s one you can play with too, open a document and write a sentence like:

It was already nighttime when we arrived.

Then hit F7.
Word leaps into action telling you that nighttime is not a word, it suggests night-time as a replacement. Click okay, it flags night-time for hyphen use and suggests nighttime as the replacement.

Really? How’s that work, the dictionary has words in that aren’t in the dictionary? I mean I know automated grammar checking is flaky (but then anyone who claims there are hard and fast rules for punctuation hasn’t studied the subject in depth — there are hard and fast modern usage guidelines enforced by editors and publishers based on in house style guides & some standard rules about commas in lists, and asides, that everyone generally agrees with until that debatable serial, series, Oxford[,] or Harvard comma), but spell-checking? That should be easy…

So I click on the research link, issuing a command to dispatch crack teams of custom search pixies across the interwebs, each pixie team interrogates the guardians of knowledge of one of the great ivory towers of sooth.
Eventually exhausted pixies return, each clutching a small bag of hard earned bytes, taking the bus to the CPU.
Within the hallowed and busy halls of the CPU the packets are collated and finally examined by small council of metaphorical imps, who dispatch a team of sprites armed with the GPU instructions to render the results in glorious high-definition, anti-aliased true type fonts.

I read the contradictory results… :-O

In some online dictionaries nighttime is a word, describing the period between nightfall and dawn, they note nightime is a common misspelling. Others deny its existence, but point to the entry night (with trailing -time)…
This isn’t one of those American vs. British English things (where many “American” spellings are dialectally British as well – just to confuse you – not color though – that’s just wrong damn you Noah Webster!). It seems to be a genuinely undecided word, a lexical cryptid, a weird word.

In the end I went to my printed Oxford dictionaries and they said hyphenate (but then they say realise is spelt with a z [and spelled? That’s for magic]) but I can’t help thinking that this would have been a lot easier if Microsoft had picked a side in this lexical debate, but then I suppose I would have never known of its existence.