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 “” 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.