[Humanist] 22.656 lowercase man

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Mar 29 09:47:39 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 656.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 29 Mar 2009 09:18:58 +0200
        From: Rafael Peñaloza <rpenalozan at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.623 lowercase man
        In-Reply-To: <20090317062941.27BBE2E86A at woodward.joyent.us>

Hello all,

  may I point all lower-case people out there to the case of "danah
michele boyd" (officially lower-case written)?


  Between other reasons, she considers capitalization of one's own
name as self-righteous. I am tempted to agree with her.

Rafael Penaloza

On Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 8:29 AM, Humanist Discussion Group
<willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 623.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:28:09 -0700
>        From: "W. Keith Percival" <percival at ku.edu>
>        >
> Alan,
> Thanks for your interesting message. I never ran into FIELDDATA although
> I got started in word-processing at about the same time as you did.
> As far as I’m able to judge, things seem to be going the other way,
> namely away from the exclusive use of lower-case letters: nowadays
> capitals are more popular in e-mail messages, particularly in usernames
> and e-addresses. However, you say that you might make an exception in
> the case of US and URL, but I’ve just got the following cryptic message
> from the University server here in which to my astonishment url appears
> entirely in lower case: ‘If you fall out of the offcampus proxy space,
> and no longer see the special url or the "Off-Campus Access Granted"
> message, then ...’
> When I first used electronic mail, which was about 1990, all the
> material in the headings had to be put in lower case. Now with the
> advent of desktop email programs proper names are usually capitalized,
> and so is the “Subject” and so forth. I’m not quite sure why that is.
> Perhaps it’s just part of the process of switching from digital UNIX
> programs to other e-mail programs, such as Outlook Express and
> Thunderbird. Here at the University of Washington, we all used to use a
> wonderful digital UNIX email program called the Pine Mailer. However,
> I’ve just noticed that the University server has just introduced a new
> digital e-mail program called Alpine, but to this user at least there’s
> no visible difference between Pine and Alpine: the headings are still
> entirely in lower case.
> It doesn’t bother me personally either way. Of course, whether you use
> capitalization in messages themselves has always been entirely up to
> you. Actually, I generally find I use capitalization in more or less the
> traditional way, although I don’t think I’m terribly consistent. One
> problem I have in that whole area is that I still vacillate between
> British and American usage, which given my life history is
> understandable. Also, as you well know, there have been gradual changes
> in both British and American usage over the past few decades, also
> understandable. I once in a while look at old articles I published in
> journals years ago and am quite amazed at what I see. But to me even
> more dramatic is the contrast between the orthography I followed in an
> old diary I kept in long hand in 1947 and my present habits. One of the
> strangest spellings I spot in that diary is “havnt.” I’m not sure where
> I got that one from; possibly Bernard Shaw, who was my idol when I was
> in school.
> I’m amused by the way the Germans have been agonizing over their recent
> spelling reform. I still get letters from German friends and colleagues,
> and what I notice is they don’t follow the revised orthography at all
> consistently. In particular, they fail to follow it when it seems to me
> that its innovations are quite sensible. In the new system, for
> instance, you’re supposed to write ß or ss strictly according to the
> length of the preceding vowel. So you write bloß because the vowel is
> long, but Schloss because the vowel is short. Before the present system
> came in you wrote ß or ss in word-final position regardless of the
> length of the preceding vowel, so there was no way a foreigner knew that
> the vowel in Fluß was short while the vowel of Fuß was long. Now you’re
> supposed to write Fuß but Fluss. I think that’s rather a good rule, very
> neat and logical, but in spite of that even now (after an entire
> decade!) not all Germans follow it. (And we persist in thinking of the
> Germans as typically rather docile people!) On top of that, of course,
> there were other logically possible innovations that the people in
> charge of the new spelling system didn’t have the courage to require,
> like ending the obligatory capitalization of nouns, which I think most
> people agree is a dispensable convention. But perhaps that’s a hopeless
> cause anyway!
> But the most puzzling thing to me is that German isn’t even a world
> language like English. You would think they would have no trouble
> whatever getting just a few million people living in Germany, Austria
> and German-speaking Switzerland to go along with the changes, but
> nevertheless people didn’t just fall in line like slaves or indentured
> servants. With English, on the other hand, any sweeping changes would
> stand even less chance of being adopted, because there are too many
> people in too many different countries involved. English is not our
> language anymore; it now belongs to the entire world. Perhaps this is a
> pity, but there it is!
> Here’s a funny example of the world we live in. On a recent visit to
> China, a sister-in-law of mine saw the following sign:
> This admittedly involves nothing more serious than hyphenation, but
> isn’t hyphenation just another completely arbitrary graphic feature of
> English and of all languages that use the Roman alphabet? More than once
> I have, for example, had to submit articles written in English to
> Italian publishers, and they would send back galley-proofs in which it
> was obvious that they had redone all my hyphenation following the
> Italian hyphenation rules, with hilarious results at times. Actually,
> the Italian hyphenation rules are perfectly logical (any self-respecting
> logician would approve of them whole-heartedly); the only problem is
> that they don’t happen to apply to English.
> As you may recall, I worked for many years on an Indonesian language,
> and nowadays all Indonesian languages are written in the Roman alphabet.
> Some of them, including my own language, Batak, used to use their own
> scripts, but these have been abandoned. In those earlier native scripts
> it was customary to use the number 2 to indicate doubling. So if you had
> a word like tulangtulang you would write tulang2. This use of the number
> 2 in writing, you may recall, is a feature of Devanagari, the script in
> which Sanskrit and many other languages spoken in India are normally
> written. Centuries ago the whole of Southeast Asia was a giant Indic
> empire or to be more precise a set of Hinduized kingdoms, a fact that I
> think very few people in the West are aware of.
> Even the Batak, who lived in the inaccessible highlands of northern
> Sumatra and were regarded as uncivilized by the other tribes of Sumatra,
> not to speak of Java, and they are still regarded with suspicion by many
> present-day Indonesians!) developed a perfectly decent writing system,
> one feature of which was the use of the number 2 to indicate doubling,
> which is an absolutely fundamental feature of Batak morphology, as it is
> of most Austronesian languages as far away from Sumatra as Madagascar,
> Fiji and Hawaii. To this day, when Indonesians write, whether it’s
> Bahasa Indonesia or one of their native languages, they still use that
> number 2 wherever necessary.
> I’ve been reflecting on how successful we would be in persuading
> Indonesians to abandon that practical feature, on the grounds that it is
> not used in English or Dutch. Conversely, could English-speakers be
> successfully persuaded to adopt what is after all a perfectly logical
> graphic device? (Morphological doubling does occur in English and other
> languages, though to a limited extent, of course.) But I think you’ll
> agree that in all likelihood such reforms wouldn’t be very feasible.
> People would just not fall in line. This is maybe unfortunate, but such
> is life!
> I’m reminded of a fellow student of mine at Yale who used his own
> completely phonetic spelling system for English; for years he would
> religiously use that spelling system in all his letters and e-messages
> to us all. I can assure you that it really was a splendid system from a
> purely phonetic point of view, although I must say he made the mistake
> of basing it on his own pronunciation of English. That was back in the
> fifties, and he continued to use that system for decades, but half a
> millennium later I see no signs at all that the system is gaining
> popularity.
> How do you feel about that sort of project in general?
> Keith
> --
> W. Keith Percival
> Professor Emeritus of Linguistics
> Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
> 3815 N.E. 89th Street
> Seattle, WA 98115-3742
> Ph: (206) 522-4347
> E-address: <percival at ku.edu>
> Website:  http://people.ku.edu/~percival/

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