Back to previous post: Fanfic ideas

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Dysfunctional Families: Shooting and Shouting

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

May 1, 2013

Majuscule Ludi
Posted by Patrick at 07:54 PM * 80 comments

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is, as its site says, the most prestigious award for science fiction published in Britain. It has gone to some very fine books. (Including some written by non-Britons; certain Canadian SF awards with an unwholesome obsession with official citizenship or immigration status should please copy.) (Also including this year’s winner, Dark Eden by Chris Beckett; congratulations!) And I have no particular bone to pick with the fact that it’s a juried award. I’ve served on the jury for juried awards. I think vox-pop awards like the Hugo are what they are and juried awards are what they are. No problem there.

No, the subject of my gratuitous, out-of-left-field rant is capitalization, specifically the capitalization in the basic mission statement on the front page of the Arthur C. Clarke Award’s site:

The Arthur C Clarke Award is the most prestigious award for Science Fiction in Britain, presented annually for the best Science Fiction novel of the year.
This is silly. Science fiction is many things, but it is not a proper name. It is not a painting, a country, or a ship of the line. It is a kind of narrative. It does not take upper-and-lower-case style.

Perhaps I am the only person in 2013 who reads Excessive Upper-and-Lower-Case Style this way, but I don’t think so. When I see people prosing on about “Science Fiction” when they could just as easily be saying “science fiction”, what it sounds like to me isn’t dignity. What it sounds like is this:

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it. (—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh)
Not that there’s anything wrong with Winnie-the-Pooh, he said hastily, well aware that there are living humans on planet Earth who remember me at age five obsessively memorizing large chunks of said work of literature, and quoting them back in social contexts not necessarily improved by long discursions into the language of A. A. Milne. But! (There’s always a “but.”) Is this really the kind of thing—the discourse, if you will—with which we wish to associate our hard-won, long-desired high-quality science fiction?

I rest my extremely silly case.

Comments on Majuscule Ludi:
#1 ::: Hugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 08:08 PM:

It's worth paying attention to, of course. Because as all here know, once the CamelCase gets its nose into the tent...

#4 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Maybe not a ship of the line, but "Science Fiction" would be a perfectly cromulent name for a Culture GCU . . .

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 08:29 PM:

"Science Fiction" would be a perfectly cromulent name for a Culture GCU

True. But so would "I Have Been Gnomed."

#6 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 08:41 PM:

I agree. For me the test is, do we capitalize other examples of things in the same category? And the answer is no. When discussing genre fiction, we talk about mystery, and romance, and paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. (We do talk about Westerns, but that's a special case because it derives from "the Old West".) So we should talk about science fiction, lower-case, as well.

#7 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 09:16 PM:

Hugh @ #1

Is it camel case, or pidgin German?

I see amazing amounts of random capitalization in resumes I see at work. I do work in IT, so acronyms and trademarks are common, but quite often any Noun might get capped.

#8 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 09:24 PM:

PNH @4 …as would any number of lines from Milne:

  • GCU What Tiggers Do Best
  • ROU Time for a Little Something
  • VFP Strornry Good Flyer

#9 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that rather than sounding like Pooh, using improper capitalization sounds like the sort of things Pooh was making fun of? Or am I getting turned around here?

Incidentally, my college students misuse capital letters like this all the time. Or perhaps I mean All The Time.

#10 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 09:34 PM:

I think there’s a widespread belief that capitalization is a sign of respect. I’ve been wondering if it ties in with people who insist on leaving their names lower-cased.

And I tried to come up with some kind of smart-ass comment drawing on The Glass Bead Game, but I’ve never read it.

#11 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 10:08 PM:

Henry, #7: In my (possibly imperfect) understanding, CamelCapitalization is when it happens in the middle of a word, or when two words have been jammed together without taking the capital out of the second one. A number of cons established in the last 15 or 20 years use it, such as ApolloCon or FenCon; older cons like Marcon and Aggiecon are much less likely to do so. The specific example in the top post is just improper capitalization.

Avram, #10: In my casual writing, it tends to indicate either mildly self-referential mockery or sarcasm, and which one is generally obvious from context. In formal writing, I Do Not Do This. :-)

#12 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 10:28 PM:

Lee @#11
I run into case rules more in programming languages than natural language. Wikipedia suggests that true camelCase has the hump in the middle: initial lower case. However, in various programming languages, convention uses initial lower or upper case for a type differentiator, leading to things like gridControl GridControl.

And that's a off-topic piece of evil-using the case of one letter as the only difference can get very sticky in multiple ways. One of my programmers once discovered the hard way that one of our tools did not detect case -only changes. The result was an infinite loop and stack overflow. Names do have power.

#13 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 10:44 PM:

It's software that caused the scourge known as camelcase. While programmers were using it in their code, it crept into the wider world of users through filenames. MS-DOS limited filenames to 8-characters, no blank spaces allowed. People used capitals inside the filename to make them somewhat intelligible. Then software companies started using them in product names...then they appeared in company names, and it's all been downhill since.

#14 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 11:05 PM:

I like to employ Capitalization of Non-Proper Nouns for effect, but the effect would be absent if that were normal.

And I find the use of camel case for invented terms in fantasy novels (Mercedes Lackey and Brandon Sanderson have done this) jarring, probably because it's an inherently Internet-age thing to me.

#15 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2013, 11:06 PM:

Allow me to note that as long as Canada remains immediately next door to the US, it's unlikely you will see either of the major Canadian awards moving to a similar system. Well, that and our national lack of self-confidence masked by a recent spate of nationalism. But we get around it, as I noted in Locus many years ago, by allowing you to call yourself Canadian if you vacationed north of the 49th three summers in a row when you were a kid.

#16 ::: gottacook ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:06 AM:

Well, it could be worse - they could be using The (cap T) Arthur C Clarke Award at every instance, not only at the start of sentences. Certain academic institutions care about this way too much: "The Ohio State University," "The George Washington University," etc.

Jack Vance's 1956 novel To Live Forever (aka Clarges) includes the only truly purposeful use of "The" (cap T) I've ever seen: to designate someone who's attained membership in the Amaranth Society, i.e., an immortal; thus, The Jacynth Martin, The Anastasia de Fancourt, et al.

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 01:00 AM:

I remember a defiant rant about Excessive Capitalization in the editor's notes in the rulebook of long-out-of-print mini-wargame. (Google, google.) 1979!

#18 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 01:06 AM:

The capitalization of my name doesn't derive from programming languages or modern trends. My grandfather signed his name with a bit of a flourish on the "j", a government official misread it as a capital letter, and when my grandfather saw the result he decided he liked it. Then, in the following generation, my father and some of my uncles decided it would look even better if they made the "D" lower-case. As for me, well, this is how I've spelled it my whole life, and it would feel wrong to change it.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 01:32 AM:

I'd been thinking the capitalization thing was the Clarke Award*, which is of course focused on science fiction, trying to reach out to its sister genre, fantasy.

It's clumsy, of course, and based on a stereotype of Portentous Capitalization—a phenomenon that's largely gone from modern fantasy. It's like wishing a Japanese-American "Gung Hay Fat Choy": well-meant, but misses by a mile.

But Winnie-the-Poo works too.

* I keep typing "the Clarke Awarde" here.

#20 ::: Hugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 02:03 AM:

Henry @12,

I think I've seen your strict definition of camel case, but we stretch it at work to include initial caps.

Now, of course, I'm going to be reading code with Winnie-the-Pooh's voice in my head. Ouch.

#21 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 02:59 AM:

ROU Time for a Little Something

ROUS Rabbit's Friends and Relations

Sorry, I've forgotten what ROU stands for and my brain went off on a tangent.

#22 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:04 AM:

I'd always considered Excessive Capitalisation as a symptom of fantasy, not of science fiction.

How very wrong I've been.

#23 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:35 AM:

Stephen Frug at #9 writes: Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that rather than sounding like Pooh, using improper capitalization sounds like the sort of things Pooh was making fun of?

I think Patrick has it right. Excessive Capitalization of Important Words sounds like Pooh because it sounds like the sort of thing Milne was making fun of when writing Pooh.

Pooh really is a bear of very little brain, and is not trying to be funny or make fun of things himself.

Fictional, fictional, fictional sci-
ence can't fan but a fan can sigh:
People should carefully capitali-
ze an award that's for fictional sci-


#24 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:43 AM:

Philip José Farmer was an early adopter of internal caps in The Maker of Universes (1965), where for example the bioengineered centaurs are called the KhingGatawriT. That final T always seemed especially perverse.

#25 ::: supergee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 05:54 AM:

Baseball books now capitalize Major League and Minor League. Feh.

#26 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 06:23 AM:

It seems possible that capitalizing science fiction is an extension of the normally capitalized "SF". Not a -good- extension, mind.

I feel the same way about "internet", which a lot of spellcheckers flag. The only correct spelling accepted is Internet. Even if it's an accepted convention (who decided?), I still think it's unnecessary.

#27 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 06:59 AM:

I can understand capitalizing the Internet. It is one of those where there is only one, like the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun, all of which used to be capitalized with that logic, and I suspect the capitalization of all of those is beginning to disappear.

Of course, I might have a faulty sense of this process, as I'm a native speaker of Finnish, where all of this are mandatorily lower case. It appears that even the concept of a proper name is embedded in the language and might be different in a different language.

#28 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 07:01 AM:

At a cursory glance, the BSFA only puts Science Fiction in caps on the mission statement/ headline/ title paragraph of its site. I think that's reasonable for the first example of Science Fiction there, which is also bolded (as replicated in the OP), and less justifiable in the second example, where lower case would have looked better.

Essentially the mission statement is an expanded and annotated version of the award's notional full title, "The Arthur C Clarke Award For Science Fiction", which looks fine capitalised to me.

Elsewhere - in the "ABOUT THE AWARD" section, for instance - the BSFA goes lower case, saying: "The Arthur C. Clarke Award is the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain. The annual award is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a shortlist of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year."

So poohesque capitalisationitis does not extend too far.

#29 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 07:04 AM:

Oops, not the BSFA. I got confused by seeing this also:

#30 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 07:28 AM:

D. Langford at #24 -- Some orthographies use capitol vs. lower case to indicate different sounds, I assume because there are not enough letters in the roman alphabet. This is done in the romanization of Klingon, though it seems un-necessary to me in that instance, and perhaps influenced by romanizations of some Native American languages. Which brings us back to those particular centaurs....

#31 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 07:49 AM:

Clearly, c/CamelCase comes in both Bactrian and Dromedary versions.

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 08:14 AM:

Abi #19: Er, that's Winnie the Pooh. Winnie-the-Poo would be, ahem, something else.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 08:18 AM:

I have been spending an ├Žon dealing with Excessive and Improper Capitalisation being committed by my students. It has been driving me bonkers. At least they haven't CommitTed CamelCase.

Steven desJardins #18: Hmm. Perhaps I should change my surname to leD'gister?

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 08:19 AM:

Me #32: How could I forget the great Pterry's mention of the game of Poo Sticks?

#35 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 09:33 AM:

Henry Troup @ #7: Is it camel case, or pidgin German?

I admit a pigeon would be less bother to have loose in one's tent than a camel, but I'd still rather avoid having either.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 10:24 AM:

I've been blogging the US Civil War via family papers. The capitalization being used is very random, including proper names. (Punctuation is almost non-existent, which makes reading an interesting mental exercise.)

#37 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 11:11 AM:

GCU Heffalump Trap (Eccentric)

#38 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:23 PM:

I don't understand why we don't have u/l case numbers.

abi @19: I keep typing "the Clarke Awarde" here.

For a while, Boulder had The Goode Taste Crepe Shoppe, which was pronounced, by a friend who worked there, very quickly: "TheGoodieTastyCreepyShoppie."

Tatterbots @21: ROUS Rabbit's Friends and Relations

Well, you have Rodent of Unusual Size.

#39 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:35 PM:

Jacque, do you mean the Giant Rat of Sumatra?

#40 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:41 PM:

LOU Shopping in Vorbarr Sultana
GCU What Does God Need With a Spaceship?
GSV Fish Fingers and Custard
LSV Impala

#41 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:51 PM:

ROU Oh Bother

#42 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:54 PM:

CamelCase; I shall have to remember that.

Now, I wonder--does it count as camelCase when it's really case_Camel?

In proper names, one source of camelCase is the jamming together of names and prefixes. Jan van Leyden makes perfect sense, as does Jim mac Donald.

#43 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 12:56 PM:

GOU Breathtaking Anger Management Issues

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 01:04 PM:

Teemu @27:
It is one of those where there is only one, like the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun, all of which used to be capitalized with that logic, and I suspect the capitalization of all of those is beginning to disappear.

And here I must add a citation, or at least a relevant link: a recent entry in Bigglethwaite & Windemere's Manual of Proper and Exquisite English happens to deal with that very topic.

#45 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 02:17 PM:


#46 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 02:31 PM:

My understanding was that the Internet (upper-case I) is the singleton spanning the known world. On the other hand, an internet (lower-case i) is an instance of an inter-networking system; that is, a network bridging multiple smaller networks, typically using the Internet protocol suite (aka TCP/IP). The Internet is the largest known instance of an internet, but it is also possible to set up a private internet unconnected to the Internet.

I've never been certain whether the term "camel case" originated with the Perl programming language (whose mascot is a camel, because the first book on the language had an old woodcut of a camel on the cover). I recently saw a document on the Python programming language that contrasted camel case with "snake case", which is the use of underscores to string words together. e.g. camelCase versus snake_case.

#47 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:29 PM:

abi @44: I would quibble with Bigglethwaite:

stories ... extending across more than one solar system should not capitalise sun or moon.

The Sun and the Moon are specific entities, and therefore should be capitalized. "Star" and "satellite" are the general categories, and therefore are treated like other commonplace nouns.

Stefan Jones @45: #HashTagsRequireCamelCaseBecauseTheyDoNoAllowPunctuationMarksOrSpaces


#48 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:33 PM:

i lower-case my name as a tribute to don marquis. and a protest against the early all-caps usenet. is it still a viable protest when no one knows what your sign means anymore? well, there's still archy and mehitabel.

#49 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:34 PM:

Jacque, read the rest of the entries and consider, in the light of them, how seriously to take Biggles & Windy.

#50 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:47 PM:

abi: I keep forgetting that deadpan doesn't work in ascii. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

#51 ::: Salguod ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:47 PM:

In my line of work (technology transactions law) I see this quite a bit in documents from non-lawyers (like statements of work, for example). Especially from IT folks, for some reason.

It's something of a problem, because the common legal convention is to capitalized defined terms. The longer are more complicated the agreement, the harder it is to keep track of what is and is not supposed to be a defined term and whether you've actually defined it or not. (This is why there should be IDEs for contracts, but that's another issue.)

Our internal, unofficial name for this problem is "German noun disease", which resonates with some of the early comments.

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 03:54 PM:

Stefan, #45: A similar argument can be made for website names, of which the canonical example is PowergenItalia (they didn't use an internal cap or a hyphen, and English speakers have been snickering about the result for years).

#53 ::: --E ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:06 PM:

I think of intercapping (what y'all call CamelCase) as a corporate thing. Lots of companies do this officially now.

I worked for many years at HarperCollins, and it is an intercapped name. They use the red and blue colors in the logo to visually separate the two parts, but it officially should never be typed as "Harper Collins" or "Harpercollins" or "Harper-Collins."

(Though no one seemed to mind if we shorthanded to just "Harper." Sucks to be you, Collins!)

#54 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:08 PM:

Lee (52): That is bad. They don't have to be that embarrassing to be a problem, though. For example, The One Ring, a Tolkien website, is at I consistently misread that as a name, Theo Nering.

#55 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:09 PM:

Lee #52, and Mole Station Nursery, a supplier of Australian native plants, which later changed its URL to

#56 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:19 PM:

The standard example of word parsing gone wrong in the other direction is "therapist".

#57 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:38 PM:

Science fiction is many things, but it is not a proper name. It is not a painting, a country, or a ship of the line.

I could point out that capitalization is frequently applied to historical events and eras, and sometimes even to artistic and literary movements (Mannerism, Romanticism, Surrealism, etc.) -- at least, if they're sufficiently recognized and long in the tooth. So it's not a completely bizarre idea. (Though, as Lee points out @ 6, contemporary living genres don't usually get capitalized.)

But then I noticed, as Narmitaj did, that the web site in question can't agree with itself about whether to capitalize "science fiction" or not...

This does make me wonder a bit about the history of capitalization in English writing. You can go and look at something like the Declaration of Independence, for example, which has all sort of wonky, inconsistent capitalization, sometimes including adjectives. The US Constitution is downright Germanic -- only a few nouns are left uncapitalized, seemingly by mistake.

#58 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 04:42 PM:

GOU Poor Impulse Control?

#59 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 06:09 PM:

Lee @ #52: Also

#60 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 07:19 PM:

Peter Erwin @57 -- Orthography (including both spelling and capitalization) had not been regularized at the time of the writing of the Constitution. And literacy was nowhere near universal back then, either. I've seen a Revolutionary War diary, and consistency was not part of it.

#61 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 07:48 PM:

Teemu #27

How does capitalization work in Finnish? I fear I only know one Finnish word, and that's a swearword. The things we learn from webcomics like Scandinavia and the World....

#62 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 08:22 PM:

I think of intercapping (what y'all call CamelCase) as a corporate thing. Lots of companies do this officially now.

I used to work at NCsoft, which is a Korean company so named because the founder liked the shape of the letters 'N' and 'C'. And therefore the corporate capitalization style was very strict, because otherwise the name didn't make any sense. (Or... something.)

#63 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 08:52 PM:

Carrie 40 (and others): Did I miss where these initial codes were explained? Or am I just a dolt?

*feels kinda like a dolt*

#64 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 09:23 PM:

Xopher @ 63

#65 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 09:34 PM:

Ah. Thanks. Jokes impossible to get for those who haven't read the Culture novels, then.

Though...the Rapid Offensive UnitS attacked Buttercup and Wesley in the Fire Swamp, right?

#66 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2013, 10:21 PM:

>> Jokes impossible to get for those who haven't read the Culture novels, then.

I wouldn't say so. You get more of the flavor if you've read (some of) the books, but the actual joke is fairly simple; sentient, serious, enormously capable ships that give themselves quirky -- often ironic -- names. (If I'm not misusing ironic.)

If you just haven't gotten around to reading any of the Culture books yet, I recommend them. I started with Use of Weapons. If you've tried them and found them unsuitable, well, de gustibus non est ...

#67 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2013, 12:31 AM:

I had to Google it too, Xopher. You are not alone.

#68 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2013, 06:57 AM:

Jacque @ #38: I don't understand why we don't have u/l case numbers.

Lowercase numerals are a thing; I'd seen them around for years before hearing them called that, but once I had it was immediately obvious that that's what they were.

It appears, however, that there's not much support for mixing the cases; a typeface will generally have either uppercase or lowercase numerals according to what the typographer feels goes best with the rest of the set. (Though we did have a project at work one time where our designer used a free-online typeface that, while it had its merits, mixed upper- and lowercase numerals according to no obvious plan. I gritted my teeth every time I had to look at one of the phone numbers.)

#69 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2013, 12:35 PM:

Cally @61:

It is both simple and complicated. It's simple as the rule is the same as in English: you capitalize proper names. It's complicated, because what constitutes proper names is different.

Names of individuals, human or not, ships of the line, books, newspapers, cities, counties, countries, places where hidden societies meet (the Fluorosphere), celestial bodies (except see below) etc. are capitalized in Finnish. Days of the week, months, languages (compare to countries in the other list), hidden societies (the fluorosphere), the sun, the moon, and the internet are not.

I'm not aware of any word which ought to be capitalized in Finnish but not in English.

It's actually very simple when compared to actually learning a language. Otherwise it probably seems like a mess.

#70 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2013, 01:54 PM:

Paul A @68, high-quality OpenType typefaces generally have both uppercase and lowercase (or “lining” and “oldstyle”) numerals (or “figures”). You might have to be using professional page-layout software (like InDesign) to get at ’em, though.

#71 ::: tnv ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Too much exposure to capitalization can dull perception of it, backfiring the Everything Achieves Great Importance tactic.

I was once in a (rather nice) pizza parlour in Austin where the menu descriptions were something like: "HOUSE SPECIAL: You'll be delighted with our Thin-Crust pizza, decadent with piles of Mushrooms, Ham, Meatballs and Green Peppers slathered in fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce..."

The thing is, I was having dinner there with someone whose native language is German.

"Um, where do they say what the ingredients are?"

"They're the capitalized words...Or did your brain just not pay attention to capitalized words, coming from a language where capitalization is on every noun?"

He does a double take. "I guess so!"

#72 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2013, 02:33 PM:

Shorter Patrick(?): Excessive Capitalization is a Bad Thing.

Some of the texts I teach from - especially seventeenth century ones - have very different conventions for capitalization conventions from the ones we have now. I suspect that it's very confusing for my students (who aren't native English-speakers)but I'd really miss the feel of the originals.

#73 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2013, 06:42 PM:

#23 Niall McAuley:

Ah, I misspoke, but you clarified it for me. I feared that what PNH was saying is 'you'd sound like Milne', and I meant to suggest 'surely you mean what Milne is making fun of'. Since surely there was conscious parody on Milne's part. But you clarify for me that PNH meant that you'd sound like Pooh. And that makes sense. So thanks.

#74 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2013, 10:35 PM:

An IDE for contracts makes sense. Where I work there are many documents that are the same except for the specifics.

#75 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2013, 10:43 PM:

I think I read in a book about hand-lettering that odd digits have descenders and even digits have ascenders, but that's not the case in the example in that link.

#76 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2013, 12:18 AM:

Erik Nelson @75

As someone who has proofed a lot of pages for Project Gutenberg, and seen a lot of old-style numbers, I can tell you that this wikipedia page looks pretty accurate to me:

Odd numbers generally have descenders, but 1 doesn't, and 4 does. And only 6 and 8 have ascenders.

Usually. (Also, usually, the 1 is a smallcap I.

#77 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2013, 12:55 PM:

gottacook@16 - Capitalized "The" with a last name is traditionally used for heads of Scottish clans, so "The Campbell" would be the head of Clan Campbell, etc. (Apparently the Stewarts are armigerous at this point, having a commander or commanders for various branches but no chief.) The chief is also referred to as "[Firstname][Lastname] of that ilk".

There's also a related heraldic title "chef du nom et des armes", which is either the Chief of Name and Arms or else the chef who makes the noms.

#78 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 03:44 PM:

I'm an IT person, and I do tend to follow the procedure #51 Salugod refers to. And all the Capitalized Terms *should* be defined - sometimes in the manuals rather than in the Statement of Work itself, however. Unfortunately, when there's a jargon conflict between tech and legal, and Legal (the department) has to review the SoW (which is a contract, even if it's written by techies to be read and approved by techies), this causes an issue; especially if the jargon term is capitalized and is so common in legal documents that the lawyer reviewer doesn't bother to read the definition.

And, of course, sometimes there are Legal Defined Terms and terms of Art, and technical Defined Terms and terms of Art, in the same document, both capitalized to denote said definitions; neither readers of the document feel truly comfortable.

#79 ::: Salguod ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2013, 07:49 PM:

Mycroft W@78 - you describe the problem splendidly, would love to see that level of thoughtfulness more often when I'm working on a deal... much of the time the business folks & tech consultants are simply baffled as to why these sorts of things have to get cleaned up and resolved somehow. The actual techies understand the concepts of variables, scope and naming conventions quite well, but are typically buried too far down in the client organization to do me any good.

#80 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2013, 09:33 AM:

And, alas, it and relatives can also be LoonyTheoryMarkers.


Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.