The assault on “I”

The Times of India has been replacing mid-sentence occurrences of the first-person pronoun “I” with “i” in its editorial pages over the past year. “Is the first person pronoun sacred? Or should it be in the lower case, as it has appeared on our editorial page for the past few months,” the paper asked in today’s edition. And it reprinted a NYT article – Me, Myself and I – in support of its practice. The question is not whether “I” should be written as “i”. The question is what are you trying to accomplish by turning a 800 year old practice on its head. And Caroline Winter, the writer of the article, has the answer –

So what effect has capitalizing “I” but not “you” — or any other pronoun — had on English speakers? It’s impossible to know, but perhaps our individualistic, workaholic society would be more rooted in community and quality and less focused on money and success if we each thought of ourselves as a small “i” with a sweet little dot.

The assault, and it is one, is not on an assault on the written word, but on the concept of individualism – on egoism. “I” derives from the Latin word Ego, and in the world that we inhabit, humility is preferred over egoism. “I” is bad, “we” is good. Those who have no idea about the pure evil that lies at the root of this idea should read Ayn Rand’s dystopian novella – Anthem (Project Gutenberg e-text) –

There is some word, one single word which is not in the language of men, but which has been. And this is the Unspeakable Word, which no men may speak nor hear. But sometimes, and it is rare, sometimes, somewhere, one among men find that word. They find it upon scraps of old manuscripts or cut into the fragments of ancient stones. But when they speak it they are put to death. There is no crime punished by death in this world, save this one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word.

The word is Ego. I.

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  • K. M.  On August 27, 2008 at 12:39 am

    It is important that we proudly assert our values in the face of an assault on them. Thanks for your post.

  • aristotlethegeek  On August 27, 2008 at 1:35 am

    The i’s were irksome. But with the article, TOI truly went overboard.

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