Class Warfare Blog

January 28, 2019

Not a Very Capital Idea

Filed under: Culture — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

When I was a babe, acronyms were punctuated. For example, the IRS was “the I.R.S.,” to alert people to the “shorthand” being employed. (It was also standard, to use the full name followed by the intended acronym or contraction in parentheses, when first mentioned, for example “. . . the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) . . . ” again to alert people of the use of the shorthand version. We dropped the periods some time ago. Afterward we just used “all caps” to signify an acronym.

All of that is now out the window (is there an abbreviation for defenestration?) and AIDS has become Aids, the FBI the Fbi, the IRS became the Irs, NASA became Nasa, NOAA became Noaa, and so on. These are now thrown in with no explanation or clarification, you are supposed to know them already.

As casual as people have become with capitalization (due to cellphone typing?) we are setting ourselves up for even more miscommunication with this new practice.

And … at around the same time, titles have been decapitalized, e.g. The Sound and the Fury has become “The sound and the fury.” even so far as to have a full stop/period at the end of the title! (Note Titles are rarely sentences requiring a period.) I do not see how these changes improve our ability to communicate.

As mentioned, I think the source of these changes has probably crept into ordinary usage because of cell phones. The “keyboards” of these little fuckers are arcane at best. Earlier on, if you hit the “All Caps” button, it stayed on. Now, often as not, it lasts for only one character, so if you want to type “NASA” you have to hit <Caps Key> then N, <Caps Key> then A, <Caps Key> then S, <Caps Key> then A! Eight strokes whereas if the caps key stayed on until taken off, it would be five. No wonder that people send messages looking like they have been written by e.e. cummings.

I think article and book titles got screwed up by magazines, trying for ever more trendy looks in their pages. Most ordinary creativity comes through breaking rules (extraordinary creativity involves setting new rules). So magazine article titles, which were ordinary in their capitalization became eye catching by “breaking the mold” or “breaking the rules.” Actually I think this began with advertisements which are in the “Hey, look at me!” business big time. From there it spread to the rest of the magazines pages. (Can you remember back when people were complaining that they couldn’t tell the adverts from the articles in trendy magazines? This was because they were copying one another’s styles. Now, we are used to it, although still fooled as to which is which from time to time.

Punctuation evolves. We no long hyphenate fireplace (fire-place) or tomorrow (to-morrow). We no long use periods between the letters of an acronym. Most of these things are good things as they pare away unnecessary characters (FBI doesn’t need periods (F.B.I.) because of the all-caps being used as a signifier already. I sincerely hope that when such changes occur and they are found to be unhelpful, that we either change them back or to something else that is.

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24 Comments »

  1. Yes, full stops at the end of titles is, for me, hellfire… and I see it every. single. day from the NYT’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by john zande — January 28, 2019 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

    • Bizarre idea … all because of wanting to be “trendy” (and a grand old dame at the same time).

      S

      On Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 12:19 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 28, 2019 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

      • Things will typically go to shit if you fire 300 seasoned editors.

        Like

        Comment by john zande — January 28, 2019 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

        • Ah, now I understand. The problem originated in the US (IMHO) with women being forced out into the workplace in the 1970’s. This resulted in a lot of jobs opening up in widespread fields and women left their “traditional” jobs (teacher, nurse, secretary, etc.) in droves. No longer was there a pool of highly educated women willing to work for proofreader’s wages. (Apparently that job has been eliminated.) So, proofreading got offloaded to copy editors and developmental editors, as if they were’t overloaded already. A lot of people got the title of editor as a sop to their lousy wages and so there we were and the digital revolution happened . To cut costs, they always (Always!) cut the jobs of people who are actually responsible for the quality of the output. I moved from the Chicago Tribute to the NYT because of quality of the journalism at the Trib falling off a cliff and recently I quit the NYT for the same reason.

          Eventually things will “shake out” but like evolution, that doesn’t mean we survive.

          i gotta go chase some kids off my lawn.

          On Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 1:38 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by Steve Ruis — January 28, 2019 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

          • You got a Make My Day Law there?

            Like

            Comment by john zande — January 28, 2019 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

            • Don’t even know what that means!

              On Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 3:13 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Comment by Steve Ruis — January 29, 2019 @ 11:45 am | Reply

              • Colorado name for the law which lets you shoot anyone on your lawn.

                Like

                Comment by john zande — January 29, 2019 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

                • Ah, most other places they call it a “stand your ground law.” These laws mean that if you feel fear, you are free to shoot with the excuse of “they made me afraid.”

                  On Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 12:23 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Comment by Steve Ruis — January 29, 2019 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  2. OK, I never have had any trouble with USA English changing. Language evolves, or else it becomes like Latin, a dead language. What I have not been good with, since the early 1970’s, is what I term the bastardization of our common language. Add new words, sure, we now have toys (OK, your smart phones for stupid people
    so we need new words for these toys that didn’t exist last year. It is just how bloody damn sloppy us ‘Merikkkans have become with the way we communicate. I think it really matters since we do tend to use words to exchange ideas and communicate with each other.
    Happy to be living in an apartment now days. No lawn to chase kids off of. LOL, as if I could even try to do that.

    Like

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — January 28, 2019 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

    • Re “Happy to be living in an apartment now days. No lawn to chase kids off of. LOL, as if I could even try to do that.”

      Another MeToo moment! :o)

      On Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 4:14 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 29, 2019 @ 11:46 am | Reply

    • Language evolves, or else it becomes like Latin, a dead language.

      Actually, languages become dead when people stop speaking them. The Romans were able to keep standard Latin fairly stable for centuries as long as they had a centralized empire, and so it continued to be a living language. After the empire collapsed, local dialects began “evolving” away from the standard to eventually become Italian, Spanish, Romanian, etc., with Latin used only in writing or very formalized contexts. That’s how it became a dead language.

      Like

      Comment by Infidel753 — February 2, 2019 @ 9:11 am | Reply

  3. I get that language evolves. But what is happening today with lazy idjit shorthand in texting should not be accepted as proper English. Ever.

    I am ok with the dropping of the periods for acronyms. Not ok with not capitalizing movie titles. I am apparently ok with the dropping of the “ay” from okay, and double negatives. (Actually I do despise double negatives but am too lazy at the moment to fix it)

    Hey! There’s some kids on my lawn too! BRB 😉

    Like

    Comment by shelldigger — January 29, 2019 @ 7:45 am | Reply

  4. Don’t usually have to worry about K.I.D.S. on the lawn, but chickens … well, that’s another story.

    Like

    Comment by Arkenaten — January 29, 2019 @ 8:03 am | Reply

    • Oh, no, not … C.H.I.C.K.E.N.S.!

      On Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 8:03 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 29, 2019 @ 8:07 am | Reply

      • It’s okay. Their eggs are very henticing.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Arkenaten — January 29, 2019 @ 8:08 am | Reply

        • Just when I was feeling peckish, you come along with a bad pun that spoils my appetite!

          On Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 8:08 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by Steve Ruis — January 29, 2019 @ 8:19 am | Reply

  5. I must say I’ve never seen “Irs” or “Fbi”, but I don’t do phone texting. “Nasa” is a borderline case. There have been quite a few words that started off as acronyms but evolved into ordinary words, like “laser”. It would look very odd to write LASER nowadays. It’s just a word. This has happened with AIDS (“Aids”) in the UK, but not yet in the US, though it will probably happen here eventually. Even though NASA is a proper name, it may well be on the same track.

    But this only happens with acronyms that are pronounceable. “FBI” isn’t — we’ll always have to say “eff bee igh”. You could sort of say “irs” instead of “igh ar ess”, but nobody does, and nobody would understand it if you did.

    A lot of orthographic irregularities stem from people just not knowing what the rules are. In earlier centuries, the kind of people who write things like “Fbi” wouldn’t have been writing like that because they weren’t literate at all, or if they could write a little, what they wrote wasn’t preserved. We’re not living in a time of increased semi-illiteracy, the internet is just making it more visible.

    Like

    Comment by Infidel753 — February 2, 2019 @ 9:08 am | Reply

  6. It works the other way too. Some people tend to use unnecessary capitalization when they’re trying to make concepts seem important or special — look at how religionists write about the Word, the Spirit, the Blood of the Lamb, etc. In parallel with that, over-capitalization is often a mark of clumsy, pompous writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Infidel753 — February 2, 2019 @ 10:21 am | Reply

    • Over capitalization was the norm as recently as the early 1900’s and is still the norm in languages like German. We are evolving away from that in American English and that is not really a block to communication. I wonder what the sources of such changes are. This was stimulated by attempts to teach college freshmen to write formal laboratory reports. At one point I saw a dramatic shift away from the metarule of “capitalize all the big words” to “format it like a sentence.” And these students had access to word processors which included commands such as “Format as a Title.”

      On Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 10:21 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 3, 2019 @ 9:58 am | Reply

  7. The decline in standards began around the time when newspapers stopped employing proofreaders. Initially, readers noticed the errors and wrote letters to the editor criticizing the lapse in editorial oversight. But those complaints were ignored and now the poor grammar and spelling mistakes have became the new norm.

    BTW, you can enable caps lock on a smartphone by double-tapping the shift button (up arrow). It should work on both Android and iOS.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ron — February 17, 2019 @ 5:30 am | Reply

    • Thanks for the tip! I used to be technologically competent (taking computers apart in the 1980’s, eventually building my own from parts) but I no longer have the desire or energy to keep up (plus I have a bit of a phone phobia).

      On Sun, Feb 17, 2019 at 5:30 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 17, 2019 @ 8:16 am | Reply

    • Wow! Great tip! Thanks for sharing.

      Like

      Comment by Nan — February 17, 2019 @ 11:30 am | Reply


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