What capital-ist Tea Partiers fail to realize, however, is that their orthography imitates not Thomas Jefferson and James Madison but the far less famous Timothy Matlack and Jacob Shallus—a couple of secretaries. No one played a larger role in crafting the Declaration and the Constitution than Jefferson and Madison, respectively, but it was Matlack and Shallus who hand wrote the official, signed versions of these documents and freely recapitalized them as they saw fit. By contrast, in Jefferson's drafts of the Declaration, there's a striking absence of caps—he writes "life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness," for example. As H.L. Mencken noted, "nature and creator, and even god are in lower case."Nice. And the author ID promises more language fun to come: "Jon Lackman is writing a doctoral dissertation on the use of invective in art criticism."
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Tea Party orthography: A Capital Idea?
In the latest "Good Word" column at Slate, Jon Lackman skips the "Teabonics" wisecracks and instead theorizes that the Tea Party members are capitalizing their nouns -- Freedom, Republic, etc. -- in imitation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.