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Friday, November 5, 2010

Sing a long what?

A spelling mistake I see very often is "Sing-a-long", as in "Sing-a-long Messiah". As opposed to "Sing-a-short Messiah"?

Ok, so Messiah is a long sing, but that's not what they meant! It mystifies me why people don't recognize the adverb "along" when they write this phrase. "Along" is hardly an obscure word! The audience is singing along with the performers. In fact, you can even write "singalong" as one word (although admittedly it does look vaguely Malaysian), thus saving you the question of where to include hyphens at all. So your choices are:
Singalong Messiah or Sing-along Messiah.

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1 comment:

  1. None of these words -- along, away, ago -- have any connection with the Latin ad-. They are all from Germanic sources, and the a- came from different words in each case. In "along", it was originally and- (against, facing, in a direction opposite).
    "Away" is from the phrase "on one's way", which already in Old English was reduced to "away".
    "Ago" is so complicated that I may well write a whole post about it sometime, but suffice to say that the prefix "a-" in Old English meant "forth" or "out".
    Latin "ad" (to) usually got affixed to verbs already in Latin, and then the whole word including the prefix came into English either directly from Latin or via French, e.g. admit, adverse, adventure, aggregate, etc. etc. I can't think of any examples where Latin ad- got affixed to an Anglo-Saxon root.

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.