Who Owns the Internet? You and i Do at the NYT looks at Joseph Turow’s campaign to encourage journalists to, er, decapitate the word “Internet” when used in copy.
Much to my frowniness, the article educated me on the widespread misuse of the capitalization of the word. That’s thanks in part, as the story notes, to Word’s insistent auto-capitalization of “Internet”. That usage reflects dictionary-based references to the word.
This reminds me of a quibble I have with AP style, the basis of the Cinescape style guide, which insists that “website” is more properly written “web site.”
Both judgments are based on reasonable analytic examinations of the meanings, derivations, and uses of the words: “the Internet” is something like a country; it’s not a naturally-occurring environment (like the forest or the ocean), and so forth.
“Web site” is best justified on the grounds that “web page” is the preferred usage, and furthermore, that similar digital constructs such as an “ftp site” are best rendered as two words.
Unfortunately, the capitalization of “internet” strikes me as just wrong, and I can’t recall ever thinking differently. In fact, I still recoil from the usage, which seems to me to broadcast, in big red blinking neon letters, “It is the editorial policy of this publication to promote ignorance and poor usage.”
I think that this is probably because I learned my usage of these words in the context of digital rather than print culture. Digitally oriented writing has long lower-cased even clearly derived acronyms, such as “ftp”, following the unix practice of coining words from acronyms (in this case, ‘file transfer protocol’) and treating the words as verbs or common nouns within the context of a programming command.
That is, an ftp program will perform ftp and may also be named ftp (pronounced “eff-tee-pee”). Similarly, but distinct, a gif is neither a Gif nor a GIF.
Thus, taking a step back, we can see that I’m a linguistic relativist who certainly prefers that definition and grammatical application follow usage, and in this case I prefer the usage of the coining dialect.
Of course, marketing in the computer industry has also employed goofy capitalization (iMac, CorelDRAW!) in ways that are intended to emulate this, but, (ahem) IMHO don’t.
I suspect that the idea of common property is the underlying assumption which drives the practice of coining common nouns and verbs from the acronym-derived names of a given program. Not Xerox but ftp.
As I recall, it’s common on Wintel to use ImpactedCaptalization in the context of crafting a program (naming variables and handlers and so forth); and of course DOS eschewed lower-case altogether for a time. Is it possible that the lower-case world of the unix progeny and the UPPPERCASE or UpperCase world of Wintel are direct expressions of ideology?
That’s a start to understanding what provides my certainty that the internet is L/C; but why do I think “website” is more correct than “web site”?