March 16, 2016

Sometimes a Space Makes a Difference

Open compounds often become closed compounds over time. For example, “rail road” long ago became “railroad.” More often than not, whether a term is written as an open or closed compound does not really affect meaning. I, personally, object to “fundraising,” rather than “fund raising,” but I have no trouble understanding text using either rendering.

Not always is meaning preserved when words are run together, and surprising results can emerge when the words in question are not nouns or adjectives. This thought came to mind as I read a story from Huffington Post about LGBT rights in Africa. The article contained this sentence:
As new laws have been signed this year, I could be put in prison for life in Uganda if I were to marry a man, and I could go to prison for 14 years in Nigeria if I were to have a meal with other LGBT people and just talk—my parents could go to jail as well if they didn't turn me into authorities.
What should have been written, of course, is “turn me in to authorities,” not “turn me into authorities,” which sounds like some sort of magic trick.

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