Due to technical difficulties when I was on vacation, my friend Kerie was not able to post this article about good old-fashioned grammar, but we will include it this week. Many thanks to Kerie!
Recently, while traveling with two friends in the back seat of a taxicab in Tulsa, Oklahoma following the 2014 NALS Professional Development and Education Conference, Kathy spotted a sign advertising “old fashion” root beer floats. The sign not only spoke to our ice cream cravings, but also sparked a grammar debate about the terms “old fashion” and “old-fashioned.” After some discussion, we decided we needed to do some research on the terms to clarify the appropriate usage.
As it turns out, our friends at the ice cream shop were wrong. “Old-fashioned” is a compound adjective meaning not in accord with or not following current fashion; or fashioned in a manner of old. When used as an adjective, it describes a noun, for example;
- old-fashioned root beer float;
- old-fashioned candy;
- old-fashioned Christmas;
- old-fashioned costumes.
“Old fashioned” can also be used as a noun, meaning a cocktail made of whiskey, bitters, sugar, and fruit. Notice that “old-fashioned” when used as a compound adjective has a hyphen because we link two adjectives by a hyphen when we use them to describe a noun. When used as a noun, “old fashioned” has no hyphen. My guess, though, is that the ice cream shop was advertising root beer floats and not liquor.
“Old fashion” is used colloquially (read incorrectly) and often in advertising, but it is simply incorrect.