I love this article by Lori Fradkin, “What It’s Really Like to Be a Copy Editor” (TheAwl.com, July 21, 2010), though I take issue with her opening example:
The word is douche bag. Douche space bag. People will insist that it’s one closed-up word—douchebag—but they are wrong. When you cite the dictionary as proof of the division, they will tell you that the entry refers to a product women use to clean themselves and not the guy who thinks it’s impressive to drop $300 on a bottle of vodka. You will calmly point out that, actually, the definition in Merriam-Webster is “an unattractive or offensive person” and not a reference to Summer’s Eve. They will then choose to ignore you and write it as one word anyway.
I know this because, during my three-plus years as a copy editor, I had this argument many, many times.
I couldn’t help but reply as follows:
I say it depends on how it’s being used. RT @kristinhersh the poor copy editor at Penguin had to tell me that “apeshit” is not 1 word, but 2
.@kristinhersh Also, “An experienced copyeditor will recognize and not tamper with unusual figures of speech or idiomatic usage”—CMS 15:2.56