Monday, October 17, 2011

Big Letters, Little Letters

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter loaded up her van with her two children and four grandparents for an excursion to the Belvedere Plantation Fall Festival in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The weather was beautiful, the Munchkins had a great time, and I took a mere 442 pictures over about three hours. Fortunately, I'd already read the Sunday newspaper before we left, because when we got home, I was too tired to do much of anything. Grandchildren will do that to you.

Anyhow, and speaking of the Sunday newspaper, I found this interesting article in yesterday morning's Washington Post: Why Do News Media Capitalize 'Occupy Wall Street' but Not 'tea party'?

As if we didn't have any more important things to worry about.

The short version of the story is this: the nation's newsroom copy editors are accused of typographical discrimination by withholding the distinction of using capital letters when printing the name the of the conservative movement ('tea party' rather than 'Tea Party"), while granting this distinction to the liberal "Occupy Wall Street" movement. As the writer notes, "a movement credited with harpooning debt-ceiling compromise plans between the White House and Congress can’t even get the same treatment afforded to common nouns in German."

In the interest of fairness, I went back and looked through this blog to find out how I had treated this crucial topic, and found that I have, without actually considering the socio-/political-/typographic implications, capitalized both "Tea Party" and "Occupy Wall Street."

I suppose this is an important distinction in some circles, because the use of capital letters to designate a group or movement provides, at least in theory, a recognition of its importance. Say what you will about the Tea Party (and, as you know, I've said a lot), it has had a major impact on modern American politics while allowing its members to dress up in silly faux-Revolutionary War costumes and reduce complex issues to easily-understood bumper stickers. And it has its own website, which is a prerequisite for being taken seriously in the 21st century. Therefore, and in my humble opinion, Tea Party zealots rate the distinction of capital letters.

The original "Occupy Wall Street" movement also has its own website, and has tended to attract its own set of fringe wingnuts who reduce complex issues to easily-understood bumper stickers. They deserve their capital letters as much as the Tea Party does.

So ...

Let's agree to capitalize both "Tea Party" and "Occupy Wall Street." Once they are satisfactorily capitalized, perhaps they'll feel secure enough to actually talk to each other and discover that each side has real issues and concerns that might actually be resolved with a little more discussion and a little less dressing up in silly costumes and shouting.

Stranger things have happened.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - if you'd like to learn more about the rules of capitalization, you can find them here and here.



Gilahi said...

This is what the parties are concerned about? What a Bunch of Crap.

Wv - susizish: The little-ish girl the Everly Brothers sang about.

Mike said...

I think the news media have capitalized a lot on the tea party.

allenwoodhaven said...

I just saw in The Washington Post that Occupy Wall Street was refered to as OWS. Getting mentioned as an acronym indicates having more power than mere capital letters!

To be fair, we should make the Tea Party and acronmy too. TP works for me and has multiple layers of meaning...