Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Birdflu is evolving

Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log notes that he's seeing more instances of birdflu rendered as one word instead of two.

The one-word construction shows us 158 times in a Google News search right now. Take out everything from Reuters, which seems to be the biggest offender, and you drop to 88 hits.

Few of those come from U.S. sources, though -- seven of the 88. Three are from the Columbus Dispatch, and all are used as adjectives. However, the paper doesn't consistently use the one-word form for adjectives; it more often appears as bird-flu.

Two hits are from Science Daily. Both are just pages that contain links to stories from November that used the term. But their current stories consistently use two words for the noun and the adjective.

One shows up in the headline but not the body of a Herald News Daily (N.D.) story, from AP. It's used as an adjective there, too.

I wouldn't call this a widespread error yet, but be on the lookout. Birdflu is no cellphone, but nor should we let it become so, either.


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