1

Would I leave the space, hyphenate it, or combine the two works like its similar, less aggressive counterpart: "dumbass"

The quote from my novel is from dialogue

"It's been six years, you dumb fuck," Gus muttered under his breath.

Which of these would be GRAMMATICALLY correct? If several are correct, which would be the most proper to use for writing planning to be published?

As is:

dumb fuck

Hyphenated:

dumb-fuck

One word; no space, no hyphen:

dumbfuck

  • 4
    With and without the space take on different meanings to me. A blackbird is different from a black bird. With one word there is a single idea expressed. With two words a noun is being modified. In practice they may amount to the same thing, but I parse and think about them differently. – Jim May 2 at 4:56
  • @Cascabel my intentions were not to create a "click bait" question. I did not know how else to word it. Based on your comment, I have now edited my question and hopefully, it's not as deceiving before – Margaret Belt May 2 at 5:16
  • @Cascabel If you look at my history on all stacks, English included, that I belong to, you will find consistency. I pride myself on asking questions correct with proper formatting for the community. – Margaret Belt May 2 at 5:18
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    I think Jim's comment is extremely relevant—and very well put. The same situation would arise with "dumb ass" versus "dumbass": one spelling takes "ass" as a root noun and characterizes the person thus named as also being dumb. So Bottom the Weaver may simply be an "ass," or he may be a "dumb ass"; or again, to a modern reader, he may be a "dumbass"—a pejorative term with its own distinct connotations. So the question you need to answer in deciding how to punctuate the term you are interested in is this: which sense of the term do you have in mind? – Sven Yargs May 2 at 5:49
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    How do you envision Gus speaking the line? If the stress is on dumb, then as a closed compound. If on fuck, as in you stupid fuck, then two words. – KarlG May 2 at 9:25
2

Used as an adjective, I believe you must hyphenate two words if they consist of an adjective and a noun. For example: starry-eyed, fast-acting. Here, the word dumb is an adjective and if you're treating fuck as a noun, you could also hyphenate it. For example: He is a dumb-fuck dude.

Used as a noun, it looks good to me when you join the two words. For example: He is a dumbfuck!

In your novel, it would be:

"It's been six years, you dumbfuck," Gus muttered under his breath.

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