Thursday, July 29, 2004


Take some time to check out the latest Verbal Energy. Ruth Walker writes about the abundance of the "co" prefix.
And my point here is? Keep an ear out for the "co" prefix, and you'll hear it everywhere. It's a sign of the way language changes in response to changing patterns of thought and activity.

The "co" prefix derives from the Latin "cum," meaning "with" or "together." It's long been established, with variations, in Latin-derived words like collaborate (to work or to labor together) or connect (from words meaning "to fasten together"). More recently it's been stuck rather awkwardly onto Anglo-Saxon terms, as in, "Over the weekend, I co-wrote a song with my boyfriend." This is the verbal equivalent of mixing stripes and checks: not an absolute no-no, but you've got to know what you're doing. And note, by the way, the insistence on the redundant "co-wrote," even with the "with my boyfriend." It's as if "co-writing" were materially different from "writing."
You'll also get a peek into the style of the Christain Science Monitor:
I have a professional interest in "co" words: As the copy desk chief of my newspaper, I have to pay attention to whether we hyphenate them, as with "co-creator," or close them up, as we say in the newsroom, as we do with "coauthor," for instance. We generally close them up. We've made some exceptions, such as for "co-workers": Closed up, "coworkers" sound like the people who ork the cows. And that is orksome indeed. But nowadays "co" coinages are coming so thick and fast that I'm not sure readers can keep up with them. I'm inclined to hyphenate them until they become more familiar.


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