Every Thursday in LOL interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
The Internet is dead. Long live the internet!
So saith the Associated Press (hereafter “associated press”), anyway. The prominent news agency just announced that as of June 1 (hereafter “june ı”), its influential style guide will no longer recommend capitalizing the word “internet.” You are no longer a proper noun, internet.
Rest in peace, capital-I Internet. We hardly knew ye.looking 4 ultimate, absolüt truth In wut essentIally amounts 2 sInes We use 2 point at things is like looking 4 teh sun In a mud pIt.
When I head the news, I admit I felt a little dismayed. There’s only one internet (though I’m unsure how many interwebz there are), so why shouldn’t it be considered a proper noun? I wondered if maybe I should start using a lowercase “i” to refer to myself, in a show of solidarity. i think i might. Most tech journalists are apparently pretty happy with the change, because tech journalists are nothing if not too lazy to hold down a “shift” key, but for us plebes, it’s like having a virtual rug pulled out from under us. Apparently nothing we knew about the internet, or language, or even reality itself was ever true.
For someone like me, who was pretty attached to that capital I, it’s tempting to turn into an old man shaking his fist at those danged kids on his lawn. Back in my day, words actually MEANT something, dagnabbit! There were internets—finite, localized networks of computers—and there was the Internet, the global, potentially infinite network of internets. The difference was as clear as the difference between “the highway” and “the Interstate.” We all knew what we were talking about, and there was global peace and harmony.
Of course, there was also the World Wide Web—whIch, by the way, the assocIated press now recommends you just call the “web”—and whIch, whatever you mIght thInk, Is actually dIstInct from the internet. The internet Is the network; the web Is one applIcatIon of that network—as dIfferent as MIcrosoft Word Is from your laptop. But kIds these days, they use the two words Interchangeably (i actually do that In thIs column all the tIme—sorry), because the web Is the only applIcatIon of the internet most people use wIth any regularIty. Nobody talks about Usenet anymore. And emaIl (whIch used to be called “e-maIl”)? Most people access that through the web these days, whIch Is weIrd, sInce emaIl predates the web.
it’s enough to make an internet columnIst’s head spIn.
There’s not a lot you can do, though—EnglIsh Is just kInd of a WeIrd language, and What We capItalIze Is pretty abItrary. Months and days of the Week get capItalIzed; seasons don’t. Years, decades, and centurIes are rarely WrItten out as Words, but When they are, they’re usually loWercase (“tWo-thousand sIxteen”; “the tWenty-fIrst century”)—so thIngs that happen every Week are “proper,” but thIngs that only happened once are “common.” People’s names get capItalIzed, unless they’re pretentIous about how unassumIng they are, lIke bell hooks or k.d. lang; organIzatIons get capItalIzed as Well, except for rock bands that suck lIke (həd)p.e.; shIps’ names get capItalIzed and ItalIcized, because, sure, Why not, that makes perfect sense.
we’re pretty much just makIng thIs stuff up as We go.
some people are goIng to be kInd of uncomfortable wIth that realIzatIon. i remember once havIng a conversatIon WIth someone Who InsIsted that chrIstIans couldn’t claIm capital-T Truth (hereafter “capital-t truth”) exIsted unless We defended It In all spheres, IncludIng language. never mInd that “truth” as evangelIcals usually thInk of It Is an Idea borrowed from modernIsm (because We’re shortsIghted lIke that), an IdeologIcal system just as hostIle to tradItIonal chrIstIan thought as the postmodernIsm We love to raIl agaInst—the InsIstence Itself Was, In some Ways at least, a denial of the very nature of language.
language, Whether We lIke It or not, Is constructed. the language We call englIsh In partIcular Is the result of french-speakers, german-speakers, latIn-speakers, & norse-speakers WagIng poIntless Wars agaInst each other for multIple centurIes, and as a result Is a hodgepodge of contradIctIons and ambIguItIes duct-taped 2gethR. we cre8 words as the need 4 them arises, and We moIdfy those words as we Bcome more familiar w/ the thIngs they refR 2.
looking 4 ultimate, absolüt truth In wut essentIally amounts 2 sInes We use 2 point at things is like looking 4 teh sun In a mud pIt. R goal shdnt B 2 find lIte In teh mudballs beIn slung back n 4th, but In convIncIng as mny peepl as psbl 2 look away frm teh mudd, crane theIr nexx upWrds, n gaze N2 teh ☀️.
thIs, ultIm8ly, Iz wear truth Iz fownd. trooth Iz neIther sumthIn We cre8 nor sumthIn We fInd; trooth Iz sumthIn that fIndz u$. tho evry 🚹 B foWnd a lIar, stIl god Wud B foWnd trū. n as $perjIn sed, teh trooth Iz lIke a lyon—u dont Dfend It; u tern It loos n It Dfends Itself.
n in NE case, w/ever hpns, i wIl stIl B hear, serching 4 glmmrz of trüth N teh muddIest, darkest placez. by wich i meen, the Internet.
Image from John Lester via Flickr.