Big news today out of big business. Specifically this: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is changing its official name to Walmart Inc.
The company says it’s dropping “stores” from the name because it yearns to be more than a store. It wants people to think of it like they think of Amazon.
I don’t think that’s the real reason, though.
I think it is about that little bit of punctuation that splits Wal from Mart in the name as it is now.
Officially, that is a hyphen.
But as a sign of how poorly most people have been educated about punctuation marks, most folks call it a dash. A dash is actually a little longer than a hyphen, and in Microsoft Word, you have to put two hyphens together to get a dash, and if you want the dash not to look like it is just two hyphens but actually a longer hyphen you have to do some extra typing steps.
What it’s called matters because a hyphen and a dash are not the same thing at all. The hyphen connects things. The dash acts, usually, quite like a colon, a little mark that’s losing its footing in the English language, too.
It’s irritating to have someone tell you that his email is something like “joe-blow@gmail.com” by calling the little line in there a dash when it is in facat a hyphen. If you actually put a dash into that address you will not ever reach Joe Blow.
I’ve seen Wal-Mart spelled a number of ways over the years. Doesn’t seem to matter how. People still find their way to the store and buy stuff.