I don’t tend to join crusades, but I’m hereby enlisting in Joseph Turow‘s. According to John Schwartz’s article “Who Owns the Internet? You and i Do” in this week’s NY Times Week in Review, Turow is campaigning to have the word “internet” spelled with a small i.
Capitalization irked him because, he said, it seemed to imply that reaching into the vast, interconnected ether was a brand-name experience.
“The capitalization of things seems to place an inordinate, almost private emphasis on something,” he said, turning it into a Kleenex or a Frigidaire. “The Internet, at least philosophically, should not be owned by anyone,” he said, calling it “part of the neural universe of life.”
But, he said, dropping the big I would sent a deeper message to the world: The revolution is over, and the Net won. It’s part of everyone’s life, and as common as air and water (neither of which starts with a capital).
I’ve always thought of the word as lowercase, and it irritates me every time I see that capital I. Mind you, there are (as always) obstacles to change:
Dictionaries do not generally see themselves as making the rules, said Jesse Sheidlower, who runs the American offices of the Oxford English Dictionary.
“What dictionaries do is reflect what’s out there,” he said. He and his fellow dictionary editors would think seriously about such changes after newspapers make them, he added.
That could take a while. Allan M. Siegal, a co-author of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and an assistant managing editor at the newspaper, said that “there is some virtue in the theory” that Internet is becoming a generic term, “and it would not be surprising to see the lowercase usage eclipse the uppercase within a few years.”
He said, however, that the newspaper was unlikely to make any change that was not supported by authoritative dictionaries.
And, by the way, “the Internet’s capital I is virtually engraved in stone, since Microsoft Word automatically capitalizes the lowercase “i” unless a user overrides its settings.”
So fight the power and force the newspapers, the dictionaries, and Bill Gates to recognize the new, non-brand-name reality—write “internet”!