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Forget the game, what about the name?

Feb 1, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Is Sunday's pro football championship the Super Bowl or the Superbowl?

Every year at about this time, a question circulates through the newspaper office.

It is not a question on the order of the meaning of life, or the nature of goodness, or the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa, but it does persist.

There's a big football game coming up this Sunday. Is the name of that contest one word or two?

In other words, is it Superbowl or Super Bowl?

It's pretty obvious that among the average person, the one-word version holds sway. Look at the bar marquees around town promoting their "Superbowl" parties. Check out the newspaper ads in our own pages. There are several Superbowl parties, Superbowl specials, Superbowl thises and Superbowl thats being advertised.

Yet I resist this tide. The persistent trend toward combining two words into one always has bothered me. When I'm driving, I toss my jacket into the back seat, not the backseat. I am bugged when a local business joins the two words identifying our local river, as in Windriver Toupee Society. To me, that just as easily would be read as Win Driver as Wind River. Thank goodness this has not yet been done to the river that runs through Lander, or we'd be stuck with a business called "Popoagieriver Petunias."

Particularly irritating to my vocabularic ear and eye is the move to join the word "long" with another word representing a unit of time. The most common are hourlong and daylong, but now The Associated Press has sent word from on high that it's OK for us to use the term "monthslong" to describe something that lasts for months, and "yearlong" for something that lasts for years.

I much prefer the hyphenated modifier, as in "After a week-long journey, we finally arrived at the South Pole," as opposed to

"weeklong," which to me just as easily could be read as "wee klong," bringing to mind a Scotsman's term for a very small klong.

I've complained, mildly, to my friends at The Associated Press about this change of heart that now permits these terms of duration to be combined, but to no avail. I'm a nobody to them. (OK, "nobody" is one I do agree with).

I also will volunteer, however, that both "monthslong" and "yearslong" have a vaguely obscene connotation in my view, although perhaps that says more about me than it does about The Associated Press. But surely you would agree that describing something with a duration of several seconds as "secondslong" comes very close, were the spacing to be in the right place, to describing describe what would be a spectacular oddity of human anatomy, albeit in a vulgar way.

Some words simply ought to be kept separate.

I think super and bowl are two such words, but I can see the other side. It depends on if you see "super" as the key component of the term, or whether "bowl" takes precedent. We usually join "super" with whatever follows it. Look ... up in the sky ... it's Superman! A great athlete is a superstar, as was the Christian savior in a memorable Broadway musical. We all have learned to navigate the information superhighway, our biggest Navy ships are supercarriers, and a piece of legislation sometimes needs a supermajority to pass.

Our favorite jive-talking cocaine dealer trying to go straight in a 1970s "blaxploitation" movie is Superfly -- but only in the sequel. The first movie was called "Super Fly." The 1990 sequel was called "The Return of Superfly." Perhaps the start of the erosion can be traced there.

Yet we don't tack on whatever word suits us to "bowl." We have a hot lunch in a soup bowl, not a soupbowl. We spoon our cornflakes into a cereal bowl, not a cerealbowl. When we ski at Jackson Hole, we might try the Rendezvous Bowl or the Casper Bowl, not the Rendezvousbowl or Casperbowl.

And, most particular to the question at hand, none of the other famous football bowl games is expressed via a compound word, Stanford won the Rose Bowl, not the Rosebowl. Oregon didn't with the Fiestabowl, but the Fiesta Bowl. And heaven knows we don't think Navy won the Kraft Fight Hungerbowl, do we? There is a certain ring to the Famous Idaho Potatobowl, however, but I'm still sticking to my guns on this.

If you saw a news item -- or is that newsitem? -- about SMU's victory in the Sheraton Haawiibowl, you might clip it and tape it to the refrigerator door as example No. 743 of how stupid the newspaper editor is -- and you'd be right (for once).

Yet most of us seem perfectly OK to refer to this Sunday's NFL championship game between the San Francisco 49ers (now there's a word for you) and Baltimore Ravens as the Superbowl.

Baltimore history might yield the true source of this problem. The Ravens are named for their city's connection to the famed writer of the gloomy and the macabre, Edgar Allen Poe, a long-ago Baltimorean who also has a place in debate over one word vs. two. Poe had long since died by the time the Baltimore Ravens arrived on the scene, but he doesn't strike me as someone who would have been a football fan.

As a matter of fact, if he ever had gone to a football game and then was asked if he'd like to attend a second, he might well have "quoted" the famous poem from which the pro football Baltimore Ravens take their name.

Another game, Mr. Poe?

"Nevermore."

But shouldn't that be "never more"?

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