Wordsmithing; a case of the use of the Hyphened bee-keeper

What am I a bee-keeper or beekeeper; Is the hobby called bee-keeping or beekeeping? The latter is “modern” spelling and want what is commonly used and most of my readers would have never even seen the use of the hyphenated bee-keeper until my last post.

I am trying to develop the habit of not relaying so much on the phone and computer for simple tasks. When we outsource so much of our lives so much is lost. This is most notable in the ability for someone to give and give directions from someone or something that isn’t a GPS. I’ve had more than a couple older people roll their eyes at me or friends when we are lost and can’t take directions, and frankly it is justified the eyes should roll. So, to me it begs the question, what are we loosing with the instant definition recall over every word or saying to which we now have access? I started to form want I was going to say in this article before I thought of some answers to that question and will address it later. The main issue at hand is what I found then I didn’t use the internet as my dictionary.

Ron Miksha in his article Beekeep or Bee-keep in 2016 advocates to allow the common vernacular to influence our use of the hyphen citing that a person’s writing will seem archaic which can be a distraction to the issue at hand. But, with “beekeeping” being that it is a noun, wouldn’t bee-keeping be more precise?

My 1982 Webster’s New World Compact School and Office Dictionary does not have the words “beekeeper”, “beekeeping”, or “apiarist”. So, when I thought about how a person in a two thousand year understand me if I continually let common vernacular penetrate my writing that is published and published on a global scale.

A friend’s 1985 Webster dictionary defines “beekeeper” and “beekeeping” but as nouns not verbs. Implying that one most define bee then keeping, as keeping is the verb of keep. With some paraphrasing the 1982 Webster dictionary reads; “bee” an insect with 4 wings; “keep” (transitive verb kept, keeping) to provide for, support. Therefor “bee-keeping: to support and act of providing for bees” would be my implied definition.

My quest to define that I do

The first thing I did when “beekeeping” was not in my dictionary was to blame the fact that it is the compact addition. Maybe the Second College Edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary has the word which my dictionary does not because it is the compact version. So, I go to “bookkeeping” as they are similar, but bookkeeping is a noun so if the sentence “I am beekeeping in Northern New Jersey” is not correct as I am doing something (bee-keeping) in northern New Jersey not being a person, place or thing in northern New Jersey.

The hyphen as a tool to solve one of the problems

So why split the hairs between beekeeper and bee-keeper? Doing so opens up a new approach to address one of the issues we have in the hobby and business of keeping bees. Too often people get into the hobby thinking they are “going to save the bees” by getting bees. These people put bees in boxes, watch the entrance for activity, call themselves beekeepers, and when their bees are dead because they weren’t care for during the year, they blame something else other than themselves. It is a major issue especially here in Northern NJ where so many people are keeping bees near one another. These people are called “bee havers” I’m not totally sure how it is currently spelt.

The approach that is currently taken is to write them off and be frustrated that they are doing the wrong thing. “Bee havers” would be a way to offend someone as there is negative assumptions that they don’t care or they are stupid and can’t see that they are actually doing more harm than good. It’s an approach that will, and does, only push people away, farther from our reach and reducing our ability to properly educate.

When we (as my dictionary does) define a “keeper” as a person that “keeps” and “keep” to provide for, support; to guard or tend; to maintain. And we define “have” to hold, own, possess; to possess as a part; to experience; to hold in mind; to engage in; to permit as. We approach the bee-haver differently. We approach with the understanding that they are allowing the bees to be where they are, that they own them, and that they are holding them in mind. Meaning they care about the bees, but are simply misguided in how to care, tent to, and provide for them.

Bee-haver and Bee-keeper draw a distinction between the two people and there are no negative assumptions made by one group about the other. Now imagine if you approached a political conversation knowing you weren’t going to be called a racist, just because your company has a wage gap, or you knew the other wasn’t going to assume that you are trying to build an authoritarian communist government, just because you think there should be Medicare for all. When starting a conversation with or about a bee-haver we are first, with our language approaching that person with compassion by acknowledging they care, own, and think about the bees that they have.

In Hindo, there are more than ten words for “aunt” or “uncle” (1) I am advocating to for two to describe people that have bees.

Being misunderstood on the internet

In Miksha’s 2016 article mentions that if a person is writing for publication a person should use proper grammar but when writing an email or signage a misstep in grammar is fine. But I would argue that it is not okay. There is such an enormous amount of tension online and the friction between groups (by age, place, culture) is ever more heated. Could it be that the letter to the editor section of the local news paper has been replaced with a facebook post and people aren’t giving the same time and attention to their audience? Would there be so much misunderstanding between people on the internet if we gave the attention to each word the way that we would if we were writing into the local paper; if we acknowledge that the readers do not have the same vernacular (vernacular defined as the common, everyday language of a people or the shoptalk of a profession or trade) as us because even in the same place two groups can have a different vernacular.

To that point and to close when someone uses “beekeeper” I am not going to jump to correct them. I understand that they have more wisdom to share with me than just the spelling. If in your travels you read, “I am a bekeeper and I think I am only going to use snake oil to treat my Varroa mites” and your first two concerns are that “bee-keeping” doesn’t have the hyphen and is also spelt incorrectly. You are allowing the issue of grammar to get in your way of your ability to better educate the person that thinks they are going to be doing good when in reality it just snake oil.

If someone contacts you asking for advice on a topic about which you are an expert and the same “bekeeper” typo takes place and you let that get the way of serving this person in the say of sharing information, are you making the most of your own time? Do you really not understand the bee-keeper or beekeeper that has approached you?

Words Cited

1: Donn, Andy; Burn Rate, Launching a startup and losing my mind; page 3; copyright 2022; Hardback ISBN 978-0-593-23826-4

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