Here’s another gem from Slashdot. This time on English.
In my world, possibly the same as yours, “grade-school” is indeed hyphenated; in part because it is a unified term. In “grade school”, “grade” is an adjective where “school” is a noun. In such syntax, “grade” modifies “school”. I was not referring to a school on a hill, or to school which teaches about grading. Now, I was talking about a school which is gradual, and hence “grade school” would have worked, I was not referring to the entire academic system in which education is taught gradually. I was referring to the subset of years consisting of grades 1 through 6(ish), commonly coined “grade-school”.
Similarly, I could have used “elementary-school”, however “elementary school” would have been a school that teaches the periodic table, or the basic elements of some other industry.
See, “adjective noun” is a general form of English, where each word is considered according to its individual definition. “adjective-noun” is a specific form of English, where the compound-word (or “compounded word”, because “compound” is a noun, and “compounded” is the adjective here) is considered according to a non-Englist lexicon, often industry-specific jargon.
They taught me your way in grade-school, when they told me that I was in grade school. That’s my point. My education continued beyond grade-school where I learned that I had not only attended grade school but I had also attended grade-school; and I learned the important distinction.
But I’ll ask you the same question I ask of people who argue “whom” versus “who”. “How many times have you said the word ‘whom’ in the last year?” Many of them realize that they’ve never used it, and that’s when they realize that they must be making some mistake. So in your case, when was the last time you used a hyphen? If you answer is unreasonable, then clearly you aren’t utilizing the entire English language properly.
A lot of people have been dropping hyphens over the last sixty years — twice my life-time. But hey, people say “there’s five of them over there” because they don’t seem to realize how ignorant and hick-town it sounds when expanded to “there is five . . .”.