Yesterday Jane from Augusta, Maine, wrote me with this question:
A recent article in our newspaper used the word “multi-hypenate” to describe a person. It’s not in any of our dictionaries, including big, little, or medical. I have searched the Internet to find a meaning. Is it a word or is it a misspelling? Am I going nuts or just behind the times?
When I first read Jane’s message, I wondered how I could help. If she had searched her dictionaries and the Internet, what could I add? But then I thought more about her suggestion: Is it a word or is it a misspelling? That strange hypenate looked a lot like a familiar word: hyphenate.
The intended word was multi-hyphenate, which can also be spelled without the hyphen.
According to Double-Tongued Word Wrester Dictionary, the noun multi–hyphenate means “a person who has (or who is known for having) several main occupations.” Example:
Actor-director-producer Clint Eastwood was born in 1930.
Double-Tongued Word Wrester Dictionary cites a use of multi-hyphenate as early as 1969, but the word has not become popular. OneLook Dictionary Search, a search engine listing hundreds of dictionaries around the globe, lists no other online dictionary with a definition for multi-hyphenate.
Usually when I learn a new word, I look for opportunities to use it. But I plan to forget multi-hyphenate. It’s pointless to use a word that few readers will recognize or be able to find in their dictionaries. Besides that, with its strings of right-hand letters, the word is difficult to type.
Jane, you reader-researcher-questioner, thanks for introducing me to multi-hyphenate. That is the last time I will type it.