As I look out my office window at the silent majesty of a winter’s morn; the clean, cool chill of the holiday air; I’m reminded that I’ve been meaning to say something about the hyphen.
Ever hear of a compound modifier? It’s a situation in which two words work together to describe one noun. Like “brown-eyed girl,” for instance. Or “high-jumping grasshopper.”
Both “brown-eyed” and “high-jumping” are compound modifiers; the hyphen is employed to clarify the meaning of the phrase. Because without it, the second example—”high jumping grasshopper”—could very well indicate a jumping grasshopper after one too many bong hits.
Just yesterday, I saw a Wendy’s billboard on Division advertising something called “skin on fries.” Given that the folks at Wendy’s are surely smart enough to know the compound modifier/hyphen rule, it can only mean that the fast-food chain, in an apparent homage to The Silence of the Lambs, has come up with an entirely new way to season your fries.