It is International Caps Lock Day, as Megan Garber has alerted us in her TheAtlantic.com post on the subject. This is a day to celebrate (if you must), but with some caveats. It's not like you can just hit the caps lock key with your pinkie and carry on; that would be irresponsible, or worse, a BAD LOOK. Caps locking is a notoriously difficult enterprise, fraught with complications and repercussions. If you caps lock too frequently, people will block you. If you caps lock ironically, people will still block you. If you caps lock erratically, people may be confused. What are you trying to do to them, anyway? There are rules that must be abided, even on its special day.
Garber writes, "Today, like all the best holidays, gives us an excuse to do something we ordinarily would not: to type EXCLUSIVELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS, which is the effective equivalent of shouting, which is the effective equivalent of provoking and/or annoying EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER ON THE INTERNET. [Editor's note: SO YOU CLAIM.]"
Yes, this is true, notwithstanding the editor's note. Caps-locking excessively is still annoying, still likely to get you in trouble—by which we mean, be generally ignored by those you so hope to grab the attention of, because caps locking is a form of trying too hard. If this whole post were in caps lock, we dare say you would flee from it in horror. It's taken much restraint not to do that. Never say we didn't give you anything on International Caps Lock Day.
But Garber is correct, the way we caps lock now has changed. There are subtleties, there is progress. The only way to avoid appearing like you're trying too hard, after all, is to try even harder, and so, there is a NEW FORM of caps locking—let's call it the singular or one-off caps lock—in which you focus on capitalizing just one word (or maybe two, or max, three) in a sentence. That would look like this:
There is only ONE right way to caps lock.
Caps locking is for CHUMPS.
Cap it, lock it, GOTTA GO.
You see, this form of caps locking is just a cheaper, easier, one-finger-ready italicization or emphasis. You can do it without even lifting your hand from the keyboard. And everybody's doing it. Do it like this:
Ack!!! Can You Tell the REAL Cathy Comic Books from the Fake Ones? bit.ly/RXInOH— Jezebel (@Jezebel) October 22, 2012
The disgusting Romney burger (lobster, hollandaise) has SURGED to a lead over the disgusting Obama burger (hot dog, relish) in BGR's sweeps.— Molly Ball (@mollyesque) October 22, 2012
But not like this:
DRUNK HULK GOT DRUNK ON BUS TOUR OF FRANCE ONCE BACK IN COLLEGE! HOPE NO ONE TAKE THAT AWAY FROM DRUNK HULK!— DRUNK HULK (@DRUNKHULK) October 22, 2012
You can, however, do it to seem Drunk Hulk-esque, if you employ the use sparingly, knowingly.
@mollyesque "DOING IT FOR THE PRESIDENT!" *shoves a hamburger–hot dog hybrid monster into mouth*— James Hare (@harej) October 22, 2012
A further caveat: DoN't Do It LiKe tHIs lEsT peOPLe ThInK YOU ArE Rly DRunK.
And, even further: Acronyms don't count.
Garber says this new view of caps-locking is simply a sign of the times, the way we are now as an advanced Internet species as compared with those Neanderthalic writing-on-caves in all-capital letters days: "Which means that the default suggestion of all-caps writing can go from "YES I AM SHOUTING AT YOU HAHA SORRY BUT NOT REALLY" to something more interesting and nuanced: irony, sarcasm, implication. Shouting, BUT NOT REALLY," she explains. Partial caps locking, then, is a way to infuse a bit o' IRONY in a piece. Caps locking is kind of like—OH OH OH—the underbrag, in that it doesn't look good, but somehow, it is. It's ever so bloggy. We are PRETENDING to be stupid or over-exuberant, but we are NOT. ARE WE?
An added note: Don't be obvious. From Twitter data via the @CapsCop, "JUST accounts for 13 percent of the most tweeted caps locked words on Twitter, ahead of FUCK (12 percent), LOVE (11 percent), GO (11 percent) and GOT (11 percent)," according to a Mediabistro piece from this August. Try other words to be of the VANGUARD.
As you sound thrillingly naive or free of inhibitions, your words will be underscored with a kind of emotional distance and awareness of said naiveté that means the writer is anything but. The single-serve caps use is an effort in quiet, stoical performance art, an art that belies its own truth, in fact. It is practically existential. So DO it. The other benefit of the caps lock, though, and perhaps the single-most key to its newfound appreciation, is that if you use IT, you don't need to use an exclamation point. Thank goodness, because we're running out, and that was stressing SOME of us out, quite a lot.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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