Here's why the hyphen is perhaps the most perfect punctuation in history. No other mark in the English language allows two legal words to unite through its means and take on an entirely new definition. Jack-in-the-box is a wonderful children's toy. Jack In The Box is either a substandard fast food restaurant or a creepy guy named Jack who, for some reason, is inside a box. You like the hyphenated word better, don't you? Look at it. It's like they're holding hands. Intimacy!
When a union of two words is imminent, you know something important is about to come hither. President? Neat. Elect? Pretty good. President-elect? Jesus Christ, I just felt a burst of energy.
And don't call it a dash. We don't use telegraphs anymore.
This brings us to athletes. They're a superstitious bunch. But what isn't refutable is the advantage that the hyphen brings to a man or woman's game. This list of men and women excel at their game more so than, for example, 10 of their lesser colleagues who don't have hyphens. Impossible to argue otherwise!
10. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Okay, so after embarking on this list, it thinned out pretty quickly after the first half. And the Cardinals cornerback from Tennessee State snuck on the list by virtue of catching six interceptions his rookie season, including two during the run through the NFC playoffs last year.
And have you seen his jersey? That uniform has some serious Henry Rowengartner Syndrome.
9. Eun-Hee Ji
Sure, we're here to have fun, but we're also here to learn. Such as: there exists a good golfer named Eun-Hee Ji. The South Korean won the 2009 U.S. Open with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. She has only one other LPGA win to date, but give her some time.
With such an influx of Koreans in women's golf, the question always needs to be asked: could Ji become the next Se Ri Pak? Of course not. Look at her name. No hyphens.
8. Chien-Ming Wang
The face (FACE!) of Taiwanese baseball. He had a career 55-26 record and a 4.16 ERA with five seasons for the Yankees. Unfortunately, with guys like CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett clogging the rotation, the Yankees seem more interested in an initial-based caste system. Therefore, Wang likely won't return to the Bronx, a crushing blow to innuendo-laced headline aficionados and 10-year-olds everywhere.
7. Shin-Soo Choo
The argument can be made he's the best player the Indians have left. (Well, at least the best clothed player.) And perhaps the most damaging part? Choo might have to fulfill a South Korean duty by enlisting in his nation's army next year instead of playing. Anything to get out of playing for Cleveland, I suppose.
6. Shareef Abdur-Rahim
He scored nearly 10,000 points during the decade, by far the top hyphenated baller of this generation. (In second place is Tariq Abdul-Wahad with about 700.)
And oh my word, were Abdur-Rahim's teams ever terrible. In 12 seasons with the (Vancouver!) Grizzlies, Hawks, Trail Blazers, and Kings, his fellow men had a winning record, let alone a playoff spot, once. ONCE. I'd retire at 31 too.
His decision to step away from basketball was immortalized by The Clash in the song "Rock The Casbah." Shareef don't like it…
5. Marc-Andre Fleury
Oh, this one pains me. With a career 131 wins and a 31-18 mark in the playoffs, Fleury helped lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Detroit Red Wings last year in seven games. And yet … he's not the best hyphenated goalie. Don't that beat all.
His nickname is "Flower," which sounds terrible for an athlete, but that's simply the French translation of his surname. Here's a better one for him: The Forget-Me-Not.
4. Misty May-Treanor
She's accomplished a lot during her trips to Athens and Beijing as one half of the world's best beach volleyball duo.
Oh, and she won gold medals too!
3. Maurice Jones-Drew
Also known as The Little Hyphen That Could. The not-even-five-foot-seven-inch-tall Jaguars running back was a fairly capable runner at UCLA, at the time known only as Maurice Drew. But he blossomed into a full-fledged man when he honored his late grandfather by slapping the Jones 'twixt his moniker. Since playing for the Jaguars in 2006, MJD is 10th on the active list with 49 rushing touchdowns.
Rumor has it that for the 2010 season, the Jaguars owner is going to cover entire sections of seats with a tarpaulin made entirely out of hyphens.
2. Jean-Sebastien Giguere
The NHL is infested with Canadians. And yet, relocating teams to Arizona and Florida didn't solve anything. So we're bound to have a few great goalies on this list.
Giggy, as he is known to people who still believe Will Smith's song is cool (including yours truly), gets the nod over MAF for having more career wins, shutouts, and postseason numbers. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Anaheim (Mighty!) Ducks, even though his team lost the Stanley Cup to the Red Wings. Talk about making a strong-impression.
1. Justine Henin-Hardenne
Don't believe in the hyphen hype? With it in her name she won seven grand slams, two WTA championships, and an Olympic gold medal. Without it … nothing. As plain ol' Justine Henin, she did rack up some weeks ranked No. 1 on the tour without it, staying on top of the world for a total of 117 weeks. But that was residual gain.
Reports are she is coming out of retirement, but the hyphen will stay in the drawer along with the wedding ring. I hate to break it to her, because she is a fantastic tennis player. I just don't want to see her lose the touch and wonder what went wrong.
Okay, so you don't want to get back together with your husband? Here's a wild idea. Marry someone else. Or go postmodern. Legally change your full name to Justine-Henin. Ain't nobody gonna mess with that.
Honorable mention: Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Australian-born Mariners pitcher doesn't have the skills, but I'm totally digging his Twitter handle. If he puts together a solid decade, he'll certainly make this list on merit next time.
Postscript: I intentionally left people off this list. To personally make you insane.
(Photos via Getty Images and Associated Press)