RE:i's large and small

Harry Oxley (
Tue, 2 Apr 1996 12:37:05 +1000

re mike's note
''I'm quite facinated by Mercedes' use of "i" rather than "I". I had
>never reflected on the use of the capital I in language. At the very least,
>seeing, and repeatedly seeing, the small "i" has the same effect of seeing
>and repeatedly seeing the word "she" in place of the more traditional "he"
>in written discourse. It marks the extent to which the language in which we
>write (and think -- do we think in capital I's?) helps to structure the way
>that we think about ourselves and our relations to others. I'd like to know
>more about the history of the use of capital I's and other similar
>conventions in language.''

not being an eng. lit. type, i had always vaguely assumed that the
use of the capital rather than the small 'i' was because it related to an
individual rather than to a group or category; like we say boston with a
capital but 'american cities' with one capital for the one america but not
for the bunch of of cities - and so on; similarly capitalised 'i' am one
person and 'we' are a plurality. it hadn't struck me that this convention
could have political overtones read into it. if that is how things work i
wonder we don't use the capital for the m in 'me', which is the focus of
glorification for which i hear some psychologists see the 'i' as a mere
servant and admirer.
i personally don't see why we need to bother about capitals at all.
doing without them was fine for don marquis' poet archie who found it
easier on the typewriter - and me too. perhaps we can use capitals just
for emphasis on words while awaiting another way of getting it in 'text'
formats such as are used for email.
harry oxley
Harry Oxley