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CAPS LOCK. Commentary and a Confession

Recently I was stalking people who’ve graciously accepted my Friend Requests on Facebook, iTunes playing in the background, when I realized my pulse had gained speed. The capital letters that dominated so many comments on a political post stood out on the screen. Ugh. I stopped reading and took a break to enjoy Jim Croce for a minute. “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim.” That’s right, I thought. You don’t screw around with the dude using caps lock either.

I discovered Grammarly on Facebook, when I noticed that many of the pictures a lot of my friends were sharing were from Grammarly’s page, and was a fan straight away. Aside from their real services, they provide regular comic relief for language-obsessed individuals such as myself, often in the form of hilarious pictures, e-cards and faux-inspirational posters such as this one. These allow me to laugh a little about grammatical horrors that otherwise make my skin crawl. I take pride in my writing, and while I confess to having used caps lock on rare occasions, I know that I can get any point across with the right words, and shouldn’t resort to shoving it in my reader’s face.

As a word nerd, I am deeply disturbed when the media takes liberties with language, compounding words and names to invent new ones designed specifically for the hipster crowd. If the newscasters sound hip and cool, they will gain a loyal audience with the younger generation (or those who are no longer considered younger, yet are somehow cool anyway). The media coins terms and names like TomKat, Brangelina, and – oh, snap, I just forgot my other examples –  and inserts them in every possible newscast. Because, c’mon, it’s keewl.

These words and phrases go beyond simple annoyances to us grammar geeks, who heart language so. For me it elicits a visceral reaction, one not unlike the gag reflex brought on by the site or smell of another’s vomit. Yet I must admit it: I have used caps lock, and I have now mashed words together, to offer a new verb, one which doesn’t require further definition, but that I will define anyway. ‘Cause that’s just how I roll.

Caplock. (v.)  To write, post, text, tweet or what-ever using all capital letters. To lock the capitals (letters) on a keyboard, phone, ipad – what-ever! To caplock. The act of caplocking. She caplocked.

Examples:

Andy was thrown over the edge by Jim’s latest rant. He’d gone too far this time, and Andy had to walk away from Jim, after, like, more than twenty years of being BFFs, due to their heated – and capitalized – political debates. But before un-friending Jim, Andy let loose and caplocked. He never heard from Jim again.

 Or:

 The dude was constantly caplocking. On HER page. HER TIMELINE, for God’s sake! Her friends talked to her about his nasty tone of voice, and she realized they were right. She caplocked, on his page this time, and broke up with him.

Common Usage:

1. You doubt the ability of your audience (a.k.a. the recipient of your assault) to get the point without some form of visual aid. Can they fully comprehend your point just by reading your words? Do they realize how passionate you are about the subject? If they can’t see your reddening face, the veins pulsing on your temples that prove how mad you are – well, you just can’t be sure. That’s a risk you can’t bear to take. What if they don’t get it? O.M.G. What if?

2) You doubt your ability to effectively argue without some back-up demonstration to highlight your point. This stems from an underlying lack of confidence in your overall verbal skills. But language evolves, and the notion developed that a word written or typed in all caps was either spoken with more force, or had more meaning than its lowercase version. You can now rely on caps to strengthen your point in virtual “conversation.”* (Really?? “Conversation”??**).

Phew! Thank God we don’t have to take time to consider which words would do the job best!

3) In days of yore we had calm, even-toned (read: mature) conversation in which the use of wit and a wide range of vocabulary were valued and effective tools of debate and discussion. Now, what you lack in imagination and vocabulary, you can compensate for with volume. Ruefully, the tête-à-tête has morphed into a perpetual showing of individual will: all participants talk over each other, struggling to be heard over others. The winner is the loudest, he who continues yapping until others give up trying to talk. (Persistence pays!) This drowning-everyone-out phenomenon has permeated the virtual world in the only possible way: the equation of caps lock = yelling was born. If you can not rest until your post, with its enlightened message, will be the first seen, the most read, and of course, generally considered the strongest argument, you can count on caps lock. When you caplock then hit that enter, you are the baddest man in the whole damn town. Badder than old King Kong. Meaner than a junk yard dog.

footnotes:

*The recent “love” of the quotation mark, and other punctuation infatuations, will earn their own post. Stay tuned.

**Hyper-punctuation. Excessive intonation. These are but two signs of a systemic problem, symptoms of DGAPS, or Deteriorating Grammar and Punctuation Skills Syndrome. Like a flesh-eating bacteria, DGAPS has seeped into our language, and unless we stop this sickness, the disease will quickly progress like, well, uh, you know.

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