20 NOVEMBER 1926, Page 20


[To the Editor of the SrEeraToa.] Saa,—Will you decide for_us what is the proper_ alternative designation of the Principal of a school ? You published last

week an article from the " Head4laster 7 (with a hyphen) of Harrow. The Times, on the same date, reports a meeting of the Incorporated Association of " Head Masters " (without a hyphen), but proceeds to describe the members of the Association as " Headmasters " (in one word). Which is correct ?

Sir James Murray once wrote to The Schoolmasters' Year- book that " Headmaster " is to be avoided because the single word would mean analogically a " master of heads "- like schoolmaster and ironmaster. Mr. H. W. Fowler tells us in one place to write the single unhyphened word, and in another place either to keep the two elements quite separate - or (" if that seems impossilAe ") to unite them fully. The Authors' and Printers' Dictionary and the usage of the Oxford University Press make two words of it.

To a good many people, therefore, it appears to be not only possible, but desirable, " to keep the two elements quite separate." The all-sufficient authority ought to be the Incorporated Association itself. And yet the question remains for you, Sir—if you will undertake it—to decide.— [We see that the Oxford Dictionary gives " head master " and " head-master " with the preference to the former. It does not give " headmaster." The method of writing such words seems to be a mere matter of taste and nobody could be accused of committing a solecism for exercising his private judgment. We fancy that the tendency is to save space as much as possible and, therefore, the most contracted forms are gradually obtaining a victory over the less contracted, especially in very familiar conjunctions. Personally, we like " head master " and " head-master " equally, and reject " headmaster " as an ill-constructed " portmanteau." Perhaps it is not generally recognized how much we are in the hands of printers who make their own rules and insist upon them until they have worn down opposition.—En. Spectator.]