It’s all about the hyphen

My fellow Bathonion and vegetarian, Sir Isaac Pitman (1813–97), the inventor of Pitman shorthand and founder of the Pitman Press in Bath, and his younger brother Henry Pitman (1826–1909), both advocates of spelling reform, argued that the hypen in co-operator was really important to distinguish us from barrel makers. I’ve always agreed with them on that.

Our American cousins, in their desire to simplify spelling, dropped the hyphen centuries ago, but not everyone in the world always agreed with them. So when 2012, the International Year of Co-operators (IYC) came along, a small contest developed. As the IYC was a United Nations project (although it came from an ICA initiative) and they’re based in New York, it developed a logo sans hyphen. The logo was tightly controlled by a legal agreement on its use, which you had to sign before you could download the image files, and which stipulated how exactly it had to be used. The Canadians, however, had different ideas.

2012 IYC Hyphen 2012 IYC

They may be neighbours, but they don’t always see eye to eye, and this was no exception. In the Internet age, logos are easily copied and altered, and by some magical process (well PhotoShop actually) a hyphen appeared in the logo as it appeared on the Canadian Co-operative Association’s website, from whence it could be easily downloaded. Co-operatives and Mutuals Wales (which I chair) followed suit, and soon the +hyphen logo was everywhere, competing for attention with the official sans hyphen version.

Attending the international Co-operatives United Congress in Manchester in October 2012, I went along to many interesting presentations from FairTrade co-ops to Mondragon, but one in particular I went to was the address by the Canadians about the movement there, and lo and behold the hyphen came up in discussion, see –

Well it was me of course, and I’m still a stickler for the hyphen. It’s probably not so important to distinguish us from coopers these days, now most barrels are made of aluminium, but it does signify the linkages between us, and I still insist on spelling aluminium correctly.

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