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On March 18, 2011, the small straight line between “e” (for electronic) and “m” (for mail) finally gave up the ghost after a long struggle with trying to remain relevant in a society that wishes nothing more than to kill all that is pointless and protuberant, or that which makes us think too much, or that which takes up a space without that space being merited. Many thought that the dash had died long ago. But those who could remember the dash — which isn’t a dash at all! — remembered its proper name, Hyphen, and perhaps even would speak to it casually in passing, doffing a cap — oh, hey Hyphen! (Hy to his friends).
As the story goes, “e” and “m” had never been particularly hospitable to Hyphen, pushing him one way, then the next, as if Hyphen were nothing more than the unfortunate third child forced to sit astride the station wagon’s middle seat the entire four-hour trip to Grandma’s while the other two poured trail mix down his shirt and gave him noogies. Hyphen grew to hate “e” and “m,” and to desperately seek revenge, which he plotted with his friends Internet and World Wide Web. That’s when everything started to go downhill. Some say his rage may have killed him from the inside out.
At one point, Hyphen’s parents threatened military school. He straightened up for a bit, but all was for naught. Even Internet turned his back; World Wide Web had long ago changed his name — his entire personality, really — in order to eat lunch with the popular kids. Hyphen was reported as “unnecessary,” “extraneous,” “no longer germane.” And AP, magical stylebook of publishing nerds across the English-speaking world, turned their backs as well. Hyphen would no longer hang between “e” and “m.” “E” and “m” would join forces, together at last, no barbed sword between them, as email. Hyphen was dead.
In truth, we’d dropped Hyphen long ago when he turned out to judge us for excessive drinking and the crowd we chose to spend time with, which was our business anyway, so fuck you, Hyphen. But we will always recall with fondness Hyphen’s early days, when he was charming and full of joie de vivre, when his place in the world made sense, was even beautiful. Sometimes, when the moon is high and full and the scent of daffodils fill the air, we will clutch his photograph under our pillow, and remember.
Goodbye, sweet e-mail hyphen. You’re in a better place now.