8/06/2011

It's official: Mr. Rewrite is a buzzkill



As Mr. Rewrite attempted to purchase movie tickets a few weeks back, a member of Generation Y manning the register said this:

"I don't mean to be a buzz kill/buzz-kill/buzzkill, but ..."

"What is this strange term?" thought Mr. Rewrite, a member of Generation X who could be rounded up to a Baby Boomer. But he ceased to wonder within a few minutes as handfuls of Dots jolted him into a blurry sugar high.

The headline above set him to thinking again. If buzz kill/buzz-kill/buzzkill finds its way onto dead trees, it's time for Mr. Rewrite to figure out how to use the term -- not to mention learn what it means.

The use of buzz kill in the headline seems to have come straight from the distributor of the column "Ask Amy," as it showed up on a bunch of newspaper sites crawled by Google. But what's the rationale for that format? There's no entry in the AP Stylebook or in Webster's New World College Dictionary, which settles matters not covered by the stylebook.

Mr. Rewrite is left to wander the uncertain seas of lesser references and -- yikes! -- Google to develop his ruling.

First, let's check Mr. Rewrite's favorite new alternative reference: the crowdsourced (we'll deal with this term another time) Urban Dictionary. Unfortunately, it has entries for buzzkill, buzz kill and buzz-kill. That said, buzzkill gets 17 citations to six for buzz kill and one for buzz-kill. And there are many more thumbs down for the latter two flavors. Mr. Rewrite will count that as evidence in favor of one word, no hyphen.

Dictionary.com has a listing for buzzkill (buzzkiller too). The fact that this overly accommodating reference lists only buzzkill is telling to Mr. Rewrite. Merriam-Webster's online version also lists only buzzkill. That's three points now in favor of one word, no hyphen.

Uses indexed by Google News are divided almost evenly between buzzkill and buzz kill/buzz-kill. It's the same story on regular Google. No points there.

Let's dive deeper. There was an MTV show in the mid-1990s called "Buzzkill." "CSI:NY" had an episode titled "Buzzkill." Know Your Meme, which seems rather hip, goes with buzzkill. Wiktionary (yes, yes, Mr. Rewrite knows the dangers of crowdsourced content) lists buzzkill. Let's call that 1.5 more points in favor of one word, no hyphen.

This process makes Mr. Rewrite confident -- and yes, he does now how aged and out of touch this makes him sound -- to go with buzzkill rather than buzz kill or buzz-kill. But he can't argue with great authority against "Ask Amy" or any other media source going another way.

Oh, and what does buzzkill mean? Something that's a downer, someone who's a downer, an action that is a downer, yada, yada. It kills your buzz, the buzz, Google Buzz, Buzz Aldrin (not really), etc., etc.

When his students read this, it will confirm suspicions that Mr. Rewrite is indeed a buzzkill.

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