Hyphenated New York
At West 79th Street and West End Avenue, there's a seemingly routine Department of Transportation road sign for the New-York Historical Society. The sign appears innocuous enough, and it certainly is clear and accurate. Yet there's something very wrong with it. Believe it or not, there's an error -- of sorts -- in punctuation.You see, the New-York Historical Society has been around since 1804, when New York was still a fairly young city and one if its most famous citizens, Alexander Hamilton, lost his life in a duel with Aaron Burr.
So it should come as no surprise that an institution that traces it roots that far back, and whose collections includes objects that are far older, would have a curious twist in how it spells its name. The society throws a hyphen between the words New and York, as was common usage at that time.
The city's sign is missing that all-important hyphen. Indeed, back in the 19th century, the New York Times used the hyphen in New York, doing so from 1851 to 1896. While the Times has moved on and lost the hyphen, the New-York Historical Society has stuck to its guns.
Losing the hyphen would almost be like erasing history, and it's intriguing that a museum should have a subtle trace of grammatical history in its very name.
-- Rolando Pujol