Capitalization issue


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Capitalization issue

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Modificato: Apr 5, 2009, 12:05 pm

I'm writing a piece on the "Darien Statements" (, a sort of declaration of principles for the library and for librarians.

Throughout it uses "the Library" (caps) rather than "the library." I find this an irritating stylistic tic not unconnected with what else is wrong with the statement—a conservatism and piety that doesn't jibe with the forward-thinking nature of the authors and of some of the text.

So, I'm looking for the right terms to describe this usage. My initial sense was that it is a queer Victorianism, using capitals for emphasis, particularly on categories. I am anything but a proscriptivist, but I still wanted to look it up in Chicago Manual (ed. 14*). It has a couple of passages that bear on it:

6.62 Writers have probably always felt the need for devises to give special expression—empahsis, irony, or whatever—to the written word to achieve what gesture and vocal intonation achieve for the spoken word. One old device, the use of capital letters to lend importance to certain words, is now totally outmoded and a vehicle of satire:
When John came to the throne he lost his temper and flung himself on the floor, foaming a the mouth and biting the rushes. He was thus a Bad King.
7.82 Words for transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense, especially when used in a religious context, are often capitalized:
Good; Beauty; Truth; One
I think this is an intermediate example, more like what Wikipedia has "Common nouns may be capitalized when used as names for the entire class of such things, e.g. what a piece of work is Man."

Still, I find the practice grating and archaic. It's trying for lofty Platonism and sounding like bad Victorian prose—hardly what you'd expect from a team including one of the top Open Source library developers.

Anyone lend me a hand?

*unchanged from 12, but I haven't checked—don't own—the latest, 15

Mag 13, 2009, 4:34 pm

time- You'll have to thank a fellow called Alcuin. Around 700 AD he decided for all of us which letters were to be capitalized.

Personally, I think that 'President' should be capitalized. Not doing so isn't the a carved in stone set rule that some would have us believe. For years the English debated over capitalization of Prime Minister.

So for all except legal writing if I want to capitalize President then I will do it.

You can either capitalize the words that you agree should be capitalized or the ones that you are told by others that you should capitalize.

But remember that in our country, unlike some, we have authorized no one to tell us what to capitalize.
If they try to do so then they are doing it on their own authority and not on any authority that has been bestowed on them to do so.

Mag 13, 2009, 4:41 pm

#1: timspalding "7.82 Words for transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense, especially when used in a religious context, are often capitalized:
Good; Beauty; Truth; One"

Lewic Carroll, Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur:
Then, if you'd be impressive,
Remember what I say,
That abstract qualities begin
With capitals alway:
The True, the Good, the Beautiful -
Those are the things that pay!

Mag 13, 2009, 4:46 pm

It seems to me that the statement is referring specifically to the Darien Library, and, if I am right, then I have no issue with the capitalization.

If I write, "I'm going to an author reading at my branch library", I'll use lower case. But if I write, "One of my favorite places to hang out is Chicago's Newberry Library. In addition to being a great research facility and offering interesting seminars, the Library has a killer book sale! Way better than other library book sales."

If they are referring to libraries in general, though, it's pretentious.

On the other hand, perhaps the statement was written by the author of Pureheart.