Wikipedia Unsure Whether African-American Should Be A A, A-A, A-a

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 20 14:29:48 UTC 2008

Unlike traditional (and stable and reliable) reference works,
Wikipedia is not under any kind of unified editorship. In general,
anyone can write an article and anyone can edit or change any part of
any article. This is how WP is meant to work.

One consequence is the disorderly kind of variation you're referring
to here. This "apparently indiscriminate switching" is "switching"
only in reading the article; in origin, it's almost certainly due to
many authors' writing and rewriting paragraphs, sentences, and phrases
piecemeal over a period of time. So "Wikipedia is unsure how to
hyphenate (Aa)frican(-)(Aa)merican" is like "American English is
unsure whether or not to merge low back vowels, and to what phonetic
value"-- except that reading a WP article would be analogous to
hearing it read in a patchwork of different voices, dialects, and

Mark Mandel

On Sun, Oct 19, 2008 at 9:42 PM, Doug_Harris <cats22 at> wrote:
> In attempting to learn what the oft used but seldom explained term
> 'robocall' means, I checked Wikipedia. In the article re robocalls,
> my eye caught the term African-american. Thinking that odd, I Wiki'd
> African-american, and was pointed to the article headed African-American,
> with both A's upper-cased.
> Then I noticed something else curious: Throughout that article, there
> was apparently indiscriminate switching back and forth from the hyphenated
> to the unhyphenated version.
> But African-american, in the form, didn't appear in that article even
> once -- unless I missed it.
> Though it has nothing to do with me, and no one particularly cares how I
> feel about it, I've always found that term somewhat disturbing, in the
> same way I am somewhat disturbed by the need of some people to identify
> themselves as, say, Irish-American, or Polish-American, when neither they
> nor their parents came from Ireland, or Poland, or whatever.
> Colin Powell, in his endorsement of BO today, made a similar point, about
> how certain Americans are vilified because they have Arab-sounding names,
> or happen to be Moslem, or Sikh, or whatever.
> As Rodney King said (as quoted by Wikipedia): "Please, we can get along
> here."
> Without hyphens, preferably.
> dh
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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