Years of daily writing and editing can be damaging to the brain. One tends to notice things others might ignore.

While helping my youngest brother buy a new cell phone at the Walmart in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., recently, I asked the electronics clerk when the company removed the hyphen from its name. He gave me a blank stare.

Pointing to the sign above his head, I said: “There is no hyphen in Walmart now.”

He shrugged his shoulders and replied: “I haven’t noticed.”

In an ongoing effort to keep my accuracy-in-writing rate teetering around 50 percent, I checked a forum on the topic and discovered that the Associated Press style gurus have bifurcated the usage to meet the company’s current names. Oddly, it is proper to write “Walmart” when referring to a store and “Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.” when referring to the parent company.

There was no explanation for the extracted hyphen. But I have a suggestion for the heirs of Sam Walton.

Perhaps they will donate it to another retail company and, in doing so, solve one of the great mysteries of life. Is it PET-SMART or PETS-MART?

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