In recent years, my bran- and seltzer-loving colleague Copy-Editing the Culture has raised an un-manscaped eyebrow at the most offensive grammatical offenses in popular culture. He is our nation’s last defense against punctuational anarchy.
Still, when I saw the title of a new TV drama premiering on Fox this Thursday, I was relieved that my old friend is currently off the grid, locked away with his reference books, sustained only by the Chicago Manual of Style and thrice-daily coffee enemas. As much as I appreciate his crisp prose and his high standards, I sensed that the briefest exposure to Gang Related might send him into hyphen-related shock.
Fortunately, since I found myself in the same room as the show’s creators at the Television Critics Association gathering in January, I was able to ask why they had chosen to eschew the punctuation that would transform their title from a Mad Libs combination of two random words into a construction that could at least be recognized as an adjective, albeit one lacking a noun to modify.
So why no hyphen?
“Too expensive,” said executive producer Chris Morgan. Unsatisfied, I inquired again. Morgan dug in: “I think it looks beautiful.” Brian Grazer, another executive producer, then rather undercut Morgan’s stonewalling when he admitted, “We just forgot.”
This drove Morgan to elaborate further:
A few years ago, the Writers Guild held a contest: Say what is best about being a writer, but you had to answer in three words. So writers all over would submit, you know, “work in robe,” “make good money.” ... And the winner was “There are no rules.” And it’s true, so I’ll write this off as an example of that.
When Copy-Editing the Culture hears that, a single tear will surely roll down his ruggedly handsome face.
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Happy Constitution Day!
Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.