Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Criminal Act of Lowercasing

People mainly communicate and express themselves through writing on the net. There is little vocal exchange. And there are several obvious downsides to this. The primary con is that there is no way to effectively express the inflections in our real-life voices via the words we write. We can't show our facial expressions. The closest to facial gestures we have are misused colons and parentheses and wide-eyed jaundice-coloured smiley faces (which, quite frankly, creep me out). There is no way to incorporate the little dance our hands do whenever we talk or explain things. But despite these limitations, man has found a simple yet extraordinarily ingenious way to undermine any opponent in an online debate and implicitly declare any person, place or thing inferior. There is a written equivalent of angrily flared nostrils and middle fingers, and it is the ultimate insult and the subtlest spit in the face anyone, anywhere, can give over the Internet.

Ladies, gentlemen and inbetweeners, I am referring to the intentional act of not capitalising a proper noun. People everywhere write proper nouns in the lowercase – be it someone's name, a political or religious ideology, a country or an ethnicity – out of disrespect and a way of delegitimising that person, group or thing. And many of us are guilty of this. For example, in my opinion, Hosni Mubarak and Benjamin Netanyahu deserve to be hosni mubarak and benjamin netanyahu. And Dick Cheney would be Dick cheney (the D remains capitalised on obvious grounds). But because I am grammarlicious, it pains me to ditch capitalisation in such instances. Though when I’m especially frustrated, I will.

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted a screenshot of a man who was raging against Arabs. And I felt for him. His day must have been ruined when he had to resort to writing about those camel jockeys. In his diatribe, he correctly referred to American as “American” and Ozzies (though the degenerate probably meant Aussies) as “Ozzies”, but he wrote Arabs as “arabs”. It’s true. Us Levant/Peninsula folk are simply not good enough for a grammatically correct ethnic label. My ancestors rolled down sand dunes for laughs, whipped camels and conspired to invade the world; therefore they are arabs, not Arabs.

I see this sort of thing often. Arabs are arabs, Muslims are muslims, Jews are jews. If I could, I would make a public speech appealing to all the lowercase bandits out there. But I don’t want a YouTube video of myself being remixed. I will say what I want to say here. I want everyone to know that not only is lowercasing an affront to grammar – it is an affront to humanity.  

Every time you intentionally lowercase a proper noun, the errorists win.


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