RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest Monday 1 April 1996 Volume 17 : Issue 95

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Date: Mon, 1 Apr 1996 12:00:00 PST
From: Neumann@CSL.sri.com (Peter G. Neumann)
Subject: A note on E-mail, e-mail, and email [slightly e-mended]

The Hyphenater's Handbook (or The Hyphen-Haters Handbook?)
Chapter excerpt, "e is for electronic" -- Copyright, Peter G. Neumann, 1996

Up until last year, I have used the term "E-mail" in RISKS to denote "electronic mail". I would like to be able to let the letter of an acronym reflect the upper- or lower-case appearance of the word or term it denotes (as in "DoD"), and to separate acronyms and text with a hyphen in hybrid representations (as in "e-mail"). However, lower-case acronyms that mimic natural linguistic expressions (such as "ram" and "pin") thereby become confusing, while upper-case acronyms beg for lower-case plurals to distinguish them from the final S as an acronym (as in HTTPs versus HTTPS). [Added note: the use of an apostrophe to pluralize an acronym seems to be very bad usage.] We also must live with multiple meanings (as in MAC, not to mention Mac, Macs, MACs, and MACS). Thus, there seems to be no easy algorithm that is also sensible. So great care is required in choosing risk-free acronyms.

This note is a discourse on why the hyphen is desirable for disambiguation, although it is clearly anathema to hyphen-haters. Two representations are given -- one without hyphens ("NO-"), and one with hyphens ("YES-"). Some suggestive interpretations of the latter are included [with occasional retrointerpretations of the former in square brackets].

NO-        YES-        Interpretation
---------  ----------  --------------
eat        e-at        The "@" symbol [which causes many 
                       programs to choke]
educe      e-duce      The tyrannical leader of a moderated 
                       e-mail newsgroup
egad       e-gad       1. An electronic crowbar used to disrupt 
                       2. To surf the net nonspecifically 
                          (to e-gad about); 
                       3. A mild e-mail oath.
egest      e-gest      An electronic adventure or exploit
                       [well discharged]
ego        e-go        To initiate or restart a program
                       [especially if self-validating]
egrep      e-grep      A command to search for a given string
                       expression [note the ambiguity between 
                       grep and egrep]
elan       e-lan       An electronic local-area network 
                       [*elan* suggests *dash*, not *hyphen*!]
                         [NOTE: *** dash = "--" or "---", not "-" ***]
elan vital e-lan vital After Bergson, the vital force immanent in
                       or at least desirable in, local-area networks.
elapse     e-lapse     An omission in an electronic communication
elate      e-late      Relating to delayed electronic operations
elater     e-later     Lazy evaluation, as in a c-u-e-later 
                       allocator [click-beetle used to cue next slide
                       (very obscure)]
election   e-lection   An altered electronic version of text
                       [particularly for voting data]
elicit     e-licit     Legal, as in a valid argument or 
                       nonrepudiatable message
elite      e-lite      Optimized version -- e.g., a starkly compressed 
                       e-mail message, or a minimum-toehold process
elocution  e-locution  Peculiar expression that results from use of 
                       spelling and grammar checkers
email      e-mail      Electronic mail [Distinguishing itself from 
                       every other term on this list, the 
                       unhyphenated version has no natural meaning
                       whatever, but spelling checkers might suggest
                       Emile or Ismail.] 
                          [*** NOTE the note from Peter Ladkin below.***]
emend      e-mend      To make a hex or binary patch 
emerge     e-merge     To combine different input streams
emigrate   e-migrate   To move electrons externally
emission   e-mission   Sometimes known as a C4I task
emu        e-mu        Electronic microunit 
                       [found mainly in crossword puzzles]
enfold     e-n-fold    Replicated *n* times electronically 
                       [SEE FOOTNOTE below]
enucleate  e-nucleate  To cluster disparate data 
                       [or to remove the kernel!]
enumerate  e-numerate  Someone who is literate about computer 
epact      e-pact      An agreement on programs for leap-year 
                       adjustments [Note: the epact is the excess 
                       of the solar year over the lunar year.]
equality   e-quality   A property of a computer system or network
equip      e-quip      Humor embedded in e-mail
erector    e-rector    The head of a remote-access university
escarp     e-scarp     The protected side of a firewall
                       [This is a case in which the e is gratuitous,
                       as in estop, enow, and the next example.]
especial   e-special   An anomalous event of some particular interest
estray     e-stray     Random electromagnetic interference
estrange   e-strange   An anomalous output or internal state
eta        e-ta        An abbreviated e-mail goodbye (ttfn)[ta ta for now]
evaluate   e-valuate   To assess an electronic system
evanesce   e-vanesce   What 18,000 votes did in Sarasota in 2006,
                       and what 10,000 votes did in Sarasota in 2008
                       [The above item was added here in 2008.]
event      e-vent      An air-conditioning duct for a computer system
every      e-very      A technocomparative term
evocation  e-vocation  Job of someone who works with computers
evolute    e-volute    A system with a resilient spiral 
                       shell structure
eyes       e-yes       ACK! or positive acknowledgment 
                       [the eyes have it]

eastern    e-astern    The virtual view to the rear 
Eden       E-den       A virtual retreat [e.g., a paradise]
edentate   e-dentate   Using a tooth-valued logic [toothless 
                       projective logics include and-eaters]
elope      e-lope      A fast gait experienced in virtual reality
emir       e-mir       A feeling of peacefulness, resulting  
                       from use of a Russian VR program 
                       [Eastern potentates like it]
emotion    e-motion    Screen dither
epic       e-pic       A digital image such as a .gif file
eryngo     e-ryngo     Electronic drummer [obscure: with 
                       aphroditic rhythms resulting in candid 
                       C-HOL-ly root privileges!]
escape     e-scape     A virtual view 
                       [particularly, an elusion or avoidance]
evert      e-vert      A background shade of green on 
                       video screens [particularly confusing 
                       while viewing tennis matches at 
                       Chrissie Field in San Francisco]
eyewash    e-yew-ash   A logical grafting of two different 
                       tree structures
ewig       e-wig       Computerized enhancement of a balding 
                       image [German: *ewig* = eternal]
FOOTNOTE on e-n-fold: Prefixing *n* as an index clearly needs a hyphen, as the following examples illustrate:

nacre      n-acre      An n-acre oyster bed
                       [whose mother was Pearl?]
nark       n-ark       An n-ark fleet of drug-enforcement agents
narrow     n-arrow     An n-arrow quiver [narrow with n=1]
nascent    n-ascent    An n-ascent astronaut 
                       [nascent only if n=0]
near       n-ear       An n-ear audience; n need not be 
                       an even integer; someone could be 
                       listening with half an ear.
neon       n-eon       Referring to multiple eons 
                       [a glowing sign of the times]

Using other symbols as indices also suggests further examples, such as an i-rate mortgage lender or an i-deal N-antes French card game. Other cases are left as an exercise for the reader. PGN

[I might add the need to disambiguate between various interpetations of strung-out adjectival nouns and nounal adjectives:
key recovery concepts (the essence) versus key-recovery concepts
third party poopers (repeat offenders) versus third-party poopers (who get someone else to stand in for them)
] ====================================================================

Subsequently added note:

SRI offers certified massage therapists during working hours.
Denine Dube specializes in ``table massage''. One wonders whether she massages tables?
Debbie Carpentar specializes in ''table sports massage''. The most popular table sports I can think of are ping-pong and pool. One wonders whether Debbie does her massages on one of those tables, or whether she specializes in treating ping-pong and pool players?


Incidentally, "email" is of course a perfectly good French word. This was noted in RISKS-19.96 by Peter Ladkin:

Date: Mon, 1 Apr 1996 22:31:27 +0200
From: ladkin@TechFak.Uni-Bielefeld.DE
Subject: Eglitch in RISKS-17.95

Our immoderate moderator said

>email      e-mail      Electronic mail [Distinguishing itself from every
>                          other term on this list, the unhyphenated version 
>                          has no natural meaning whatever ...]

I conclude the meanings of Email (German) and e'mail (French) [lacquered]
are unnatural.   Our moderator may consider himself lacquered. 
Es ist aber mir..
NO-        YES-        Interpretation
egal       e-gal       It bothers me a whole lot electronically.

Peter Ladkin

    [Peter, I am glad you are enameled with German and French (sorry; that
    is a Chinese pun).  You must belong to the e-galite' sororite'?  PGN]

       [The French was also noted by Bertrand Meyer .
       The German is of course borrowed from the French.  I knew that, 
       but was carefully distinguishing Email and e'mail from email in 
       noting the lack of (strict) misinterpretations for ``email''.  PGN]

Jon David offered this pithy thought:

If someone is able to predict what sort of pastries are in the bakery box, would he be considered an eclairvoyant?

So, if it could be done over the Internet, he would be e-clairvoyant as well!


Cliff Berg suggested another one:

Here's another:

etching   e-tching     Modern-day I-Ching adherent wearing fresh wool.
                       German: Ätzen (one at peace with the wool).
Also, "email" indeed means enamel in German. But it seems that the word "lacquer" comes from the Portugese /lacré./

[Muito obrigado! PGN]


The Risks Forum has occasional examples of run-on domain names that create ambiguity, such as in RISKS-22.81 and 82: www.powergenitalia.com instead of powergen-italia.com; and RISKS-22.83: www.WhoRepresents.com (which could be read as www.WhorePresents.com) and ExpertsExchange.com (versus ExpertSexChange.com).


One other hyphenation-related item needs to be noted here: ambiguated hyphenation across line breaks. Here are just a few examples,



(an Italian pi-pe-li-ne computer?)