Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

I’ve been listening to an old CD called “Red Hot and Blue”

which is a compilation of arrangements of Cole Porter songs. I started looking for a web-site to check out some of the words and found a good one which listed the lyrics for lots of the songs. Some are a bit passé now; some remain hilariously funny; and some are really very poetic and lyrical.

One of my favourite songs is “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” which for decades I thought was a Cole Porter song. I’ve now realised it was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film “Shall We Dance”. (The film where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance to the song on roller skates.) The famous opening lines of the chorus of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”are: “You say eether and I say eyether; you say neether and I say nyther; eether, eyether, neether, nyther; let’s call the whole thing off”. And then the same with tomaytoes and tomaatoes and potaytoes and potaatoes.

This reminds me of an enquiry I was pursuing a while ago about the correct spelling of ebook. I was writing a blogpost and realised I’d used several variants of the word in the same post: ebook, e-book and eBook. I started noticing that all three are widely used along with Ebook and E book and hyphenated e-Book and E-book as well. I wondered if there was a definitive version and if so who’d decreed that it should be so.

I Googled ebook and got iBook (apple store), E-book (Wikipedia), Ebooks (The Guardian), eBooks (WHS) and eBooks (Waterstones).

Wikipedia starts off by using e-book but says it can be written in other ways too. The BBC website goes for e-book but provides links to Project Gutenberg as ebooks. The Gutenberg site itself uses ebooks.

Apparently the definitive Oxford English Dictionary goes for e-book but I’m not a subscriber so can’t check. The spell checker on OpenOffice accepts e-book, e-Book, E-book and E book but highlights as mistaken ebook, eBook and Ebook.

I found an interesting article on the Writing Tips web site which explores this same subject. It ran a poll which asked readers which variant they preferred. Overwhelmingly 50% of respondents preferred e-book with nearly all the rest equally divided between eBook and ebook.

So, is there a correct way to spell ebook?

I suppose technically it’s a compound noun. Such a word can be written as one word: electronicbook; two words electronic book; or hyphenated: electronic-book. In the past it was the fashion to hyphenate compound nouns but this is no longer the case; so e-book might not be the best way as it is such a modern and contemporary phenomena. Electronicbook doesn’t read well so ebook doesn’t seem as though it’s right either. Two separate words look right when written out in full but e book doesn’t hit the spot for me and you probably wouldn’t write electronic Book so that seems to rule out eBook.

I think I’m going to settle for ebook because even though electronicbook doesn’t read well, ebook does and it looks good. Right that’s sorted then but have you noticed that the same conundrum seems to apply to web site or do I mean website or web-site?

Anyway back to my CD.  There’s also a 1949 film titled “Red Hot and Blue” starring Betty Hutton and Victor Mature which has nothing to do with Cole Porter either or eyether. The songs in this film are by Frank Loesser.

According to the trailer for Red, Hot and Blue 1949, “You haven’t lived; you haven’t laughed; you haven’t loved until you’ve stepped out with Betty Hutton and Victor Mature.” The trailer lasts for barely 3 minutes and that’s probably enough!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

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