MaxBarry.com
now clickable

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sun 22
Aug
2004

The Great [Ii]nternet Debate

Writing Suddenly people are writing to me about the word “internet.” A few months ago I happened to mention that I don’t think internet should be spelled with a capital I. At the time, this passed without much comment, but now I’m getting besieged by IT professionals telling me how I am wrong, wrong, wrong.

Their arguments fall into three categories:

  1. Check a dictionary, idiot.
  2. An internet is any network of networks, so without capitalization it’s not clear which internet you’re talking about.
  3. There’s only one Internet, so it’s a proper noun and should be capitalized.

Arguments #2 and #3 are actually contradictory, so what I should really do is forward the e-mails from one side to the other and just let them go at it. Argument #1, though, is what annoyed me about capital-I Internet in the first place: this idea that there is a golden tome somewhere entitled THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE and if you follow it precisely you’re right and otherwise you’re wrong. Or, to use an example that may be more relevant here, that English is a language just like XML is a language, and if your usage isn’t in the spec, it’s a non-standard proprietary extension, doesn’t validate, and was probably invented by Microsoft.

To me, there’s no such thing as “correct” English. The purpose of communication is not to score the maximum number of grammar points; it’s to convey a thought from your brain into someone else’s. You do this by following common usage. That’s my beef with dictionaries: they still list “usward” (av. (Archaic) Moving toward us), but have to be dragged kicking and screaming to “blog.” Common usage beats dictionary definitions every time, and in common usage “internet” has lost its “I”.

/rant

:-P

Comments

This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Jamie (#111)

Location: Auckland
Quote: "Anyone still spelling "internet" with a capital "I" is probably struggling with the complexities of their new-fangled electric typewriter."
Posted: 5314 days ago

Well, I guess I should apologise for having that quote in my tagline. I didn't realise that I had caused you such a problem :)

BTW, haven't worn the Jennifer Government tattoos yet. Wouldn't look too professional in the new job...

Jamie

Brandon R. Holgersen (#1043)

Location: Okinawa
Posted: 5309 days ago

I work as a military journalist. Which means I'm a Marine in Okinawa working for a crappy military newspaper. The same subject has come up between me and my boss before on a couple occasions when it comes to stories I have written. Of course I can't argue much the only thing I'm told is that's how it is in the associated press style guide and thats how we are going to do it.

limey (#1364)

Posted: 5191 days ago

Brilliant. Grammar points are good when you win trophies and free dinners, but if someone has to nitpick over something like Internet vs. internet, when it really doesn't matter how you spell it, things have gotten out of hand.
=D
die Limey

Az (#2277)

Location: Cologne
Quote: "Todd Bunker is a twat..."
Posted: 4916 days ago

I don't think 'new' words that are used a lot, should be added or made acceptable in the English language, in certain instances. Blog is fine just for the record.

I'm talking about the word Islamist. What the hell is that? It sounds an awful lot like Islam and terror(ist). Surely the media weren't trying to associate the two words together? No perish the thought. Islamist is so widely used now. It’s not even in the Oxford English Dictionary, but refuses to create a red squiggly line in MS Word!?

That's all I ever hear on Western news. Islamists. It's not even a word! And is blatantly a suggestive term to free thinking people that Islam is an 'ist' like racist, terrorist, sexist ... you get my point?

This is wrong wrong wrong etc. These flaming Americanist Regimists.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Built on Blosxom