Monday, January 12, 2009

One Needs No Hyphens To Boogie

This month, I will set my sails upon course to solve an enigmatic mystery that has endlessly perplexed many. I will engage in a thorough examination of the phrase: "One needs no hyphens to boogie". The origins and etymology of this common yet occult phrase are widely unknown. In fact, it has been theorized that the phrase, today, is spoken and understood antithetically of what it used to mean thousands of years ago. The questions surrounding this popular phrase are many; the answers are sparse. I will toil hard to try and sort out some of the fact from the fiction. I will engage in a careful and complex examination of the aura surrounding this very intriguing maxim. Hopefully, we will find and answer without losing any of our phrase's romanticism.*

Breaking it down:

My first step was to examine the most important words in this aphorism. Hyphens are written English conventions to connect or separate compound words, names and syllables. The origin of the word "hyphen" comes from the late Latin word: Huphen, defining the sign added to compound words. Yet, it was not used in the English language until the turn of the 17th century when it was used for the purpose of describing the placement of two words together. From the etymological analysis we can infer that our phrase manifested itself only after that because there was no antecedent to the word. Furthermore, "Hyphen" originally indicated how two or more words were to be sung together as one. Could this help unlock our phrase's meaning? For better answers I turned to examine the word "Boogie".

Boogie, as a verb, means to dance energetically, especially to rock music. This type of movement, or dance, originated from the 1920's style of rhythmic flow. It was similar to the free flowing movements of the Charleston dance, however, with fewer leg kicks. We can see that our phrase, (or at the very least, the evolved form) came into being in the 20th century. In its archaic form (WWI era), "boogie" may have been easily antedated with "foxtrot". However, there are no documented publications that claim that the foxtrot requires no hyphens. Even before the Great World War, colloquial spoken forms of our phrase may have used "cavort" in place of boogie, but again, there is no documentation of its use. Finally, theories that claim "cut a rug" was used interchangeably with "boogie" have been proven false by the innate truth that hyphens are indeed necessary to cut rugs.


Because the etymological research did not yield very concrete answers to our questions, I took to experimentation. I chose "One requires hyphens to boogie" as my null hypothesis and "One requires no hyphens to boogie" as my alternative hypothesis. Yet, I faced a giant problem. I had my hypothesis test all set up. I had gone to the fabric and supplies store and purchased all essential tools for my research. I had beakers, test tubes, baking soda, food coloring, papier-mâché**, buttons of various size and color, a box half-full of brown, green and yellow crayons, I even had gotten permission from my mother to use the stove-top lighter I found in the kitchen drawer. Yet, with all this preparation, I still faced a looming woe. Palm to forehead, upset with myself, I sighed in realization that I HAD NO HYPHENS. To prove my null hypothesis incorrect, I was scientifically required to have truckload of hyphens. So I went to work. For days, using the drawing paper and scissors, crayons and lighter, wax paper and cups and cups of coffee I created an epic pile of hyphens. To be absolutely sure of my scientific methods, the only corners I cut we those of the hyphens themselves.

Now I had all the hyphens I needed, but I had no idea how to use them. I decided to ask Jeeves. During my search, I was shocked to find two horrors. 1. Jeeves is no longer available to answer my questions (I hope he was able to retire early to a seaside hammock where he wouldn't have to answer another question in his life***) and 2. There is no information on the use of hyphens in dance; only in grammar. Pushing my woes of horror 1 aside to another day when I had less on my plate, I contemplated horror #2. I supposed that I would have to put all my hyphens to good use. I pinched my nose, clenched my teeth, shut my eyes, and jumped into the proverbial fire ahead. For the next sixteen hours I tried every possible use of hyphenation I could think of. I danced upon hyphens taped to the ground. I wore hyphens on my clothes. I even consumed hyphens while boogieing. Moreover, I played music which had hyphens in its title, in its lyrics, in its harmony. I boogied upon hyphens, within hyphens, around hyphens, about hyphens; I tried hyphens with every single preposition available. I shouted hyphenated words aloud whilst boogieing. That seemed to help my boogieing the most, but by no means did any of my experiments seem to prove that hyphens were essential to boogieing. After test and trial, I finally concluded that my alternative hypothesis was true. One requires no hyphens to boogie. In hindsight, I should have simply tested the alternative hypothesis first. All I had to do was to turn on some Avril Lavigne and boogie. Because I tested my null hypothesis first, I broke a small box of beakers, spilled some vinegar and accidentally ate seven crayons. Eh.

Philosophical approach:

Finally believing that our phrase, in every form of its literal sense, was true, I decided that the final step was to philosophically examine its deeper meaning. "What could it mean?", I asked myself while straining my eyes for deeper reflection in the mirror, "what does it mean to be able to boogie without need for hyphen?" I knew that the answers would not come easily. Do hyphens complicate or simplify dance? Do individual freedoms require nothing more than the individual herself? Do songs without hyphens make for more exciting dance? Could it simply be that if one takes days to craft countless hyphens that the fun is taken out of the following dance? Did someone learn this in the 1920's and give his knowledge as a helpful hint to a friend? I had initially thought that this phrase meant that swift hip and knee movements were constricted by hyphens. But now, after hours of experimentation, the phrase meant so much more to me, but I wasn't sure exactly how to qualify the feeling.

In the end I realized the true meaning of the phrase was exactly the antithesis of what I had had done. One needs no hyphens to boogie means that it is completely unnecessary to examine, exhaust over and exact answer from things of this nature. We are able to move independently of the supposed rules and restrictions that govern. In fact, the only laws that govern aren't the ones that Jeeves will help us with or ones that beakers and Bunsen burners will yield, no, the restrictions placed upon us are merely those of our own accord and imagination. We must move with our greatest flexibility, with our greatest creativity to find our own answers.

* Or mine.
** Papier-mâché requires hyphen.
*** Other than, "Would you like a lime with that, sir?"


Wolffystyle said...

But one DOES need a hyphen to Boogie-Woogie!

Anonymous said...

You are one WEIRD Dude.

Wolffystyle said...

I hope that by "weird" you mean: "good follower of the scientific method,"