Saturday, October 22, 2005

5 Snaps

The essay “The Cult of Lowercase” mentioned various poets who experimented with typography and practiced their craft by using all lowercase letters. The author failed to mention e.e. cummings, who declared himself as being “an author of pictures, a draughtsman of words.”

Now it’s true cummings didn’t eliminate capitals entirely, but he certainly did have unorthodox ways of applying them. I guess what strikes me about the capital letters and their use debate is that throughout his career e.e. cummings printed his name in lowercase, but many publishers of his work insist on printing his name E.E. Cummings, my point being that even in art it seems capitals are dear to tradition.

There is some evidence that the poet only used lowercase letters when he was writing to close friends and “may it not be tricksy” on a title page. Some publishers that print his name in lowercase think they are maintaining the legacy of the writer in more than just his work but also by the presentation of his name. I could never bring myself to write correspondence in sans serif typefaces and in lowercase because it is not me (please disregard the fact that this blog is in sans serif). Picture this:

This is Sam Reno giving a shout out to the Advanced Type class!
this is sam reno giving a shout out to the advanced type class

Although you may disagree, the latter sentence just does not feel like me. On the other hand, the only reason why I remember a damn thing about e.e. cummings from high school is because of the way his name appeared in his poems. Like Emily Dickenson, he had frankly annoying ways of utilizing type but they are still two of my favorite poets today, partly because their unique typographical identity made their work more memorable.

I think McMurtrie is right in his idea that capital letters have only been around so long because of tradition. Personally I don’t mind sentences without capital letters—but only where there’s a purpose. The following AIM scenario drives me nuts:

A. sup foo
B. n2mh
A. word
B. u goin 2 mikes
A. dood yea gettin smashed did u see jill dancing on the table
B. yea got pics
A. wat did seth say 2 u last nite
B. he came up 2 me and wuz all like sup woman and i wuz all shut the f*ck up i aint yo woman dis wman got a name and yall gonna use it and i gave the mofo 5 snaps
A. 5 snaps????????
B. dats wat i said 5 snaps
A. lmao

Really, people. I can appreciate a general bastardization of western alphabets and languages but the above makes me grit my teeth (speaking of which, did you know that design students have a habit of grinding their teeth more than other demographics, according to a local dentist office?). Even so I realize that typing this way is indicative of personality and *gulp* culture. Ergo, the same way THAT USING ALL CAPS IS LIKE SHOUTING IN CYBERSPACE, using lowercase can also bring across personality, emotion, and a particular je ne sais quoi in communication.

I don’t think we’ll get rid of capitals any time soon; they'd be really difficult to phase out in practical terms. Besides that they’re much too fun to design with.


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