pH and e e cummings

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Thu Dec 14 22:03:15 UTC 2006

A former columnist for _The Buyer's Guide to Comics Fandom_ / _Comics
Buyer's Guide_ is cat yronwode (pronounced "cat ironwood").  She is also
formerly associated with the underground comics houses Kitchen Sink
Press and Eclipse Comics.

My feeling is that when someone goes to such great lengths to make their
name flout normal conventions of spelling and capitalization, when they
thumb their nose at the standards that the rest of us use, and thus make
our lives more complicated in communicating with and about them, I don't
feel particularly obligated to join them as they tilt at their own
personal windmills.  So I tend to capitalize their names (e. e., cat,
etc.) when rules and conventions other than Arnold's convention #3 below
apply.  But sometimes I'm an arrogant SOB, so don't use me as a guide.

(P.S. Capitalization and pronounciation are not the only societal
conventions that yronwode ignores.  See the article about her on
Wikipedia, and the links to her Tantric Sex and Hoodoo sites).

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Arnold M. Zwicky
> Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 2:05 PM
> Subject: Re: pH and e e cummings
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: pH and e e cummings
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------------
> On Dec 14, 2006, at 7:50 AM, James Smith wrote:
> > Although there are obvious and simple ways to avoid this,
> if pH, e e
> > cummings, or another similar word or phrase is at the
> beginning of a
> > sentence, is the initial letter capitalized?
> and then Beverly Flanigan asked:
> -----
> BTW, would you all capitalize "r-lessness" at the beginning
> of a sentence??  With phonemic slashes, maybe, but how about
> if spelled out, as I've done?
> -----
> Ah, a topic dear to my heart: faithfulness (preserving the
> details of quoted material and names) vs. well-formedness
> (making the cited material conform to some system).  I posted
> on Language Log about this early this year: -- "Dubious
> quotation marks":
> and mentioned one further case in passing in my recent "Save that
> comma!":
> (Note that "well-formedness" here does not refer to some
> absolute sense of correctness, but only to conformity to some
> system -- a variety of language, a style sheet, whatever.)
> In the earlier posting I looked at some cases where points of
> mechanical style were at issue: order of quotation marks and
> periods/ commas, double vs. single quotes, lowercasing vs.
> initial capitalization, indications of emphasis.  Here,
> well-formedness generally trumps faithfulness; original
> schemes for such things are generally converted to the
> quoter's home scheme.
> I also alluded to earlier postings on the citing of taboo material.
> Here, some people go for faithfulness, reproducing original
> taboo stuff exactly, while others go for well-formedness,
> excising or disguising the taboo stuff.  People differ as to
> how powerful the conventions of modesty are for them, and on
> what occasions.
> Finally, I looked at spelling differences, in particular the
> British spelling "Labour" vs. the American spelling "Labor",
> with special reference to the British political party.  Here,
> (local) well- formedness generally seems to win: Americans
> re-spell "Labour" as "Labor", and British publications
> generally re-spell "Labor" as "Labour".  The details are very
> complex, though, much more so than I let on in that posting.
> The more recent posting looked at the serial comma.  As far
> as I can tell, the use of the serial comma for coordination
> generally conforms to the quoter's preferred scheme, whether
> this is anti-serial, with no serial comma (the majority
> style), or serial (which is my own):
> anti-serialists quoting people generally remove the commas,
> while serialists put them in.  This is well-formedness.  A
> notable exception to this is in titles, which are often
> quoted faithfully.
> The New York Times, which is relentlessly anti-serial,
> nevertheless preserves the commas in titles (of books, in particular).
> Now to initial capitalization.  There are (at least) three
> conventions at issue:
> (1)  The first non-quote character of a sentence must be a
> capitalized letter.
> (2)  As a consequence, the first non-quote character cannot
> be anything other than a letter.
> (3)  Personal names have capitalization on all their parts.
> Expressions like "pH" and "iPod" present immediate challenges
> to (1).  Unfaithful spellings like "PH" and "IPod" are
> unacceptable to many -- probably most -- people.  The
> question is the status of faithful spellings.  Some style
> manuals (I'm away from my collection of these, so can't give
> quotes) are resolute about (1); faithful spellings are
> unacceptable, and so such expressions must be avoided as the
> first words of sentences  (you can, however, write "A pH..."
> or "The iPod...").  This is a stalemate between faithfulness
> and well- formedness.  Things like
>    r-lessness is widespread in the U.K.
> have to be replaced by
>    R-lessness is widespread in the U.K. [well-formedness]
>    The phenomenon of r-lessness is widespread in the U.K.
> Spellings in which faithfulness rules are, however, pretty
> common for such expressions:
> iPod is a brand of portable media players designed and
> marketed by Apple Computer and launched in 2001.
> iPodLinux is currently safe to install on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
> generation iPods.
> If you take (1) to be an inviolable constraint, then you're
> committed to (2) as well, and you can't write things like the
> following:
>    4,357 complaints were filed in 2005.
>    /r/-lessness is widespread in the U.S.
>    (1) is ungrammatical.
> Instead, you have to avoid the offending initial character in
> one way or another:
>    Four thousand three hundred fifty-seven complaints...
>    The phenomenon of /r/-lessness...
>    Example (1) is ungrammatical.
> But not everyone treats (1) as inviolable, or at least as
> inviolable in all circumstances.  Some writers have no
> problem with some or all of the examples that violate (2).
> On to personal names, like "e. e. cummings".  For these, (1)
> and (3) are both in play, and there are four resolutions of
> the conflicts between them and faithfulness.  Since I happen
> to have collected some cites for "bell hooks", I'll use her
> name (rather than cummings's) to illustrate the cases.
> 1.  (1) and (3) are both inviolable.  We get things like the
> following:
> Bell Hooks, who spells her name without capitals, is arguably
> the most widely published black feminist scholar ever.
> plus sentence-internal occurrences of "Bell Hooks".
> 2.  Faithfulness wins over both (1) and (3).  We get things like the
> following:
> bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952)
> is an American intellectual, feminist, and social activist.
> hooks focuses on the interconnectivity of race, class, and
> gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of
> oppression and domination.
> plus sentence-internal occurrences of "bell hooks".
> (Note the spelling in the url.)
> Faithfulness wins over (3) but not (1), which is  inviolable.
>  There are two solutions:
> 3.  (1) wins over faithfulness: "Bell hooks" initially (as in
> the wiki page title below, and in most, but not all of the
> rest of the page), but "bell hooks" internally (as in the
> rest of this wiki page).
> Bell hooks
> 4.  The conflict between (1) and faithfulness is a stalemate:
> no sentence can begin with the woman's name, though "bell
> hooks" is fine internally. (This solution is not something
> you can search for.)
> I have no idea what the relative frequencies of these solutions are.
> Enough for today, though I have *a lot* more to say about
> faithfulness vs. well-formedness.
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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