PPFF #147: letters

Good morning,

Amexit happened. If you’re already in the habit of using that to mean ‘to pay for something by Amex’, I suggest you un-learn it, whisper under your breath ‘screw you American Express’, and redefine the word to mean ‘American exit’.

‘Exit from what?’, you might ask – and I don’t really know but it somehow feels like a big exit. Maybe, from its former self, or from many of the role(s) it plays in the world politics, economy etc. or whatever. But! Not to worry – it’s going to be great again! Within a wall! Winning! Yeah! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

I mustn’t get carried away. After all, I’m not even American. Certainly not legally. That’s not to say I’m American illegally either. I meant, not in a civic sense. But perhaps I am quite American in the way I consume and view the world. Aren’t we all? As much as we’d like to deny that little accusation, I suggest we stop fooling ourselves and admit that what happens in the US has had and will have a huge influence on our ways of seeing and being, especially if you speak English and even more so if you live in the Anglosphere.

With that rant behind us – a few days ago I received an email message from someone whose keyboard must have had its Caps Lock key stuck in the ‘on’ position, judging from the fact that the entire message was composed in uppercase. I let them have a pretty useful tip; in most versions of Microsoft Office packages, highlighting any text and pressing the ‘F3’ key while holding down a ‘Shift’ key, would allow users to switch between uppercase, lowercase and capitalisation.

But it turned out that their Caps Lock key was perfectly functioning, and the capital letters used in the email were for emphasis. Then I thought, as anyone in that situation would, ‘why are these letters called upper or lower cases’. Looking at my own keyboard, I was quite sure there’s neither up nor down.

Googling ‘uppercase and lowercase’ quickly revealed that they are old typesetters’ terms. Originally, uppercase letters were called ‘majuscules’ while lowercase letters were called ‘minuscules’ Aside from the fact that they both sound ridiculous, because of the standard typesetting setup of having two wooden boxes/cases of letters, one being upper and the other being lower they were replaced by ‘uppercase and lowercase’ – Majuscules were located in the upper case because they were less frequently used than minuscules which were placed closer to typesetters.

In any ‘case’,


have a good friday

Have A Good Friday

By Maggie McCain – Flickr: PB103474, CC BY 2.0