During the last few months we have been busy here at Tansa searching for and researching the latest names of athletes to qualify for London 2012, the next Olympic Games beginning the end of July. We are currently monitoring the official sites and gathering the competitors’ names to include in Tansa’s next dictionary update. Athletes will compete in 36 sports representing more than 200 countries, and that’s a lot of names to collect. Consider this. If each country were to send just one participant in each of the 36 sports, then the total participants would be 7,200; however, some sports have 10 or 20 members per team. Now we are up to 72,000 to 144,000 athletes. But of course, some countries do not participate in every sport so the final tally will be somewhere in between.
And sports writers beware … there will be Russian record holders competing against British record holders and American-record (record) holders battling German-record (record) holders – and please note, the latter may not necessarily be either American or German, so mind your hyphens. Of course it is possible to have an American American-record holder or a German German-record (record) holder.
The confusion that ensues in the previous paragraph is yet another good argument for creating words like “recordholder” to minimize the muddle like our Germanic cousins who have been much more consistent in compounding. We encounter a similar ambiguity in phrases like extra curricular activities (additional work related to academic coursework) and extra-curricular activities (beyond regular course work, in fact, usually fun activities, those definitely not related to course work). Note that not all dictionaries agree concerning use of the hyphen; Oxford Concise Dictionary, 11th edition (and Microsoft Word) prefer extra-curricular while Webster’s 4th, the Merriam-Websters, Collins, and Cambridge prefer one word, extracurricular. Tansa’s dictionaries adhere to the reference work selected by your publication, so we recognize both, well, all three. See more on the hyphen here (and I fully expect that the hyphen will be the subject of many a blog to come).
This confusion stems from the difference in meaning of the independent word and the prefix: extra (more, additional) and extra- (beyond the scope of, outside of). But then much has amusingly been made of the phrases extra marital sex and extramarital sex, so care must be taken! What a difference a space or a hyphen can make.
But language matters aside, at this time each country, event by event, is still qualifying participants and selecting their teams so the final lists will not be available until later. So we’re waiting and watching with the rest of the world to ensure that your dictionaries contain the correct names, with all the germane hyphens and spaces in place.