Why We Have Spaces Between Words
Grammar Girl explores the dangerous (and comical) results of using words without spaces.
Ashley Dodge sent me this photo of a banner that proves just how much spaces between words help us figure out meaning. Presumably, they meant "Opportunity Is Now Here," but Ashley and I both read it as "Opportunity Is Nowhere." But then you wonder, "Why would the Job Zone be so negative?" Of course, Ashley also noted that the Job Zone had no reason to leave out spaces. "I have no idea why they decided not to use spaces. It's not a website, and there's no hashtag!" she said.
Spaces Between Words Haven't Always Been the Norm
It makes you glad scribes in the 10th century AD embraced the idea of spaces between words.
Beginning in the Classical Period (around the 5th century BC), scribes wrote in a style called scriptio continua in which all the words were run together without spaces. According to an article by Gregory Nagy at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, the practice started to disappear in the 10th century AD, and spaces between words became blessedly common...until Internet domain names forced us into CamelCase and Twitter hashtags were born without spaces (and punctuation, but that's a post for another day).
Some Phrases Are Easily (and Hilariously) Misinterpreted Without Spaces
My friends on Twitter supplied the following examples of hashtags and URLs that can be dangerously misinterpreted:
#childrenslaughter. Children's Laughter or Children Slaughter? — via Rob Bringo
#everyoneshavingbabies. Everyone Is Having Babies or Everyone Shaving Babies? — via Cassie Capewell
#needsatan. Needs A Tan or Needs Satan? — via Alana Johnson
#nowthatcherisdead. Now Thatcher Is Dead or Now That Cher Is Dead? (It was Thatcher.) — via many people
http://kidsexchange.com. Meant to be Kids Exchange, but alarmingly misinterpreted as Kid Sex Change. (The store changed its URL.) — via Brian McGovern
Do you have any misunderstood hashtags or URLs to add? Leave them in a comment below!