Canadian university office ditches capital letters as forms of oppression

September 3, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Reader Paul sent me this tweet, which links to an article describing the most pathetic and most hilarious attempt at wokeness I’ve seen yet, and that’s saying a lot.

dr. linda manyguns, an Indigenous Person in Canada, is the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Elsewhere she’s described as “a Blackfoot woman, born on the Tsuut’ina Nation and registered at Siksika. She is an Elder for the Buffalo Women’s Society and part of the Beaver Bundle Society.” Before moving to Mount Royal, she was a professor in and chair of the University of Lethbridge’s Department of Indigenous Studies.

She has hit upon a new form of performative wokeness: eliminating the use of all capital letters except when it comes to Indigenous People (and presumably other minorities), for those capital letters are forms of written INEQUITY.

But here’s the tweet, which links to the statement I’ve put below.

 

And here’s her entire statement issued by Mount Royal:

this is a beginning effort at describing the use of lower case on the website of the office of indigenization and decolonization.

Indigenous people have been actively engaged in a multidimensional struggle for equality, since time immemorial. we strive for historical-cultural recognition and acknowledgment of colonial oppression that persistently devalues the diversity of our unique cultural heritages.

these sites of struggle are generally found at blockades, where demonstrations against racism occur, where racialization and cultural domination, and discrimination leave the mark of imbalance and abuses of power. sometimes these sites generate media interest but interest is generally fickle.

the explicit demonstration and practice of aboriginal culture in everyday life or at places of resistance is called by academics ‘eventing.’

the goal of equity, diversity and inclusion of all people is synonymous with the interests of Indigenous people. we support and expand the goal of equality and inclusion to all forms of life and all people. we join leaders like e. e. cummings, bell hooks, and peter kulchyski, who reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and do not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.

we resist acknowledging the power structures that oppress and join the movement that does not capitalize.

the office of indigenization and decolonization supports acts that focus on inclusion and support the right of all people to positive inclusion and change.

This is a person who is unbalanced to the point where she sees capital letters as non-inclusive symbols of inequality. They are forms of oppression; presumably the big letters are white and oppress the small LOCs (letters of color). If I were John McWhorter, I’d say that manyguns needs therapy, but I’m not him so I won’t.

Will this catch on? So far, even Mount Royal’s Office of Academic Indigenization is still using caps, but it’s on hold during the pandemic.

The main issue is this: Will abandoning capital letters in nearly all cases help bring equality to oppressed minorities? You already know the answer.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, and comrades, is your Friday Wokeness—a prime candidate for Wokest Act of 2021.

76 thoughts on “Canadian university office ditches capital letters as forms of oppression

    1. What is wrong with people, let’s put a further wedge between races, not doing her people any favours, just making people mad and I guess be would say she’s spreading hate and division

  1. Oh please, no. I used to belong to a writers’ group – years ago – and some of the members thought they were being *edgy* by not using capital letters. All it did was make them look pretentious and their writing hard to read.

  2. I think there are many things about the name of dr. linda manyguns which are troubling. Her surname is rather scary, for a start.

      1. Many guns are more than one gun. I sense a hierarchy here. Does she think she’s better than Johnny Onegun? Comparatives, superlatives and any number over 1 need to be abolished forthwith. Let flatness rule!

    1. Also, she styles herself “dr. linda manyguns phd”. She’s very keen that we know exactly what her place in the scholarship hierarchy is – twice over.

      Edit: had to correct “many guns” because Apple refuses to believe there shouldn’t be a space between the y and the g.

  3. Along with eliminating capital letters, we should consider the termination of odd numbers. Whereas even numbers provide symmetry, we lose the ability to group odd numbers automatically, which could be a problem for the Huli Wigmen tribe in New Guinea.

    1. Jeez, we just lost all the primes except one of them, namely 2. So surely you’d ban any number with an odd factor. But 2,4,8,16,32,64,…. are safe. oops…8 has 3 of those 2s in it, and 32 has 5. Throw ’em out. But 8 is [2 to the (2 to the 2)], 3 of them. World is closing in one us! Run!!

      ms. manyguns is sabotaging what probably began as a somewhat worthwhile effort. Why do these sort of things so often end up in the hands of idiots?

      Way back, I knew a man who moved out there as that university’s president. If he’s still around, this must be intensely embarrassing.

      1. I’m a dumbass, one of those is wrong, but they were shouting me to come for supper—excuses, excuses. So it can be an exercise. I hope only one.

  4. She definitely needs a capital “W” for her brand of performative Wokism. The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of recently – and against stiff competition, too.

    1. I forgot to add: “we join leaders like e. e. cummings” – has she read the poems our host reproduced in today’s Hili?! wtf!

  5. This reminds me of Archy, the Don Marquis character, a cockroach, who could not use capital letters because he couldn’t hold down the shift key while typing by jumping from key to key.

    Marquis was prescient in so many ways. He would probably be getting a big kick out of this.

    L

  6. I’ve never given it any thought, but surely capitalizing the first word of a sentence makes reading easier. Or maybe I’ve just be socially conditioned to think so by the oppressive structures of language. /s

    Seriously, this is ridiculous.

  7. I’m mostly for it. People tend to overcapitalize like they’re a Victorian schoolgirl. Get rid of most of it. Just don’t go overboard and get rid of it in cases where capitalization reduces confusion of term and thus improves communication. Emerson’s quote springs to mind – ““A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

    1. I generally agree. For those of us who speak and write english (or English, pardon the cap) as our native language, capitalization can be gratuitous, and it’s no big deal to read through this kind of variation in style and usage without losing understanding.

      But for people who speak and write english as a second language, it can be quite hard to read through that variation. It’s distracting and the reader can be left wondering whether it was (or wasn’t) important that some word was capitalized in one usage but not capitalized i some other usage. At the little journal I edit, we try to persuade authors to use a more or less standard usage style including caps and punctuation and spelling etc., mainly for the benefit of the majority of our readers who are in non-english-speaking countries.

    2. I disagree.

      People overusing a thing is not a good reason for getting rid of the correct usage of the thing. Capitalise according to the rules of English, but no more and no less.

      1. There are no singular ‘rules of English.’ There are hundreds of grammar and style guides and they vary on what they will tell you is correct. Fly from the UK and the US, and you get an entirely different set. Moreover people continually invent new ways to use language so that there are always open questions about new usages. So IMO general rules of thumb, like reminding people to minimize capitalization, are a good thing.

        1. I think you’ll find that capitalising the first word of a sentence and proper nouns is pretty universal in the English writing world. The fact that there are variations in other areas and some people like to break the rules for effect isn’t a good argument (or an argument at all, in fact) against using capitalisation where appropriate.

  8. My sister got up at an SDS conference sometime in the 1960s and said that using English was oppressive and suggested replacing it with some extremely obscure language. She did this as a joke and was taken seriously.

  9. “Indigenous people have been actively engaged in a multidimensional struggle for equality, since time immemorial.” Time immemorial? Against whom were they engaging in their struggle prior to 1492, since THAT was certainly not “time immemorial”, more or less by definition. Maybe against “multidimensional” alien oppressors? Ironically, this deliberate omission of capital letters is just as pretentious as this use of language in the article.

    And, just a thought…maybe dr. manyguns* is channeling the spirit of e. e. cummings, who died on this date in 1962, as noted in today’s Hili Dialogue. Although, as was pointed out there, he doesn’t seem like the most “woke-friendly” of poets.

    *I have to admit, I like her name.

    1. “Against whom were they engaging in their struggle prior to 1492?”

      Each other?

      I’m a Canadian, originally from the north relatively speaking, and would like to think that I have always had a great deal of sympathy with indigenous causes here. But my fussiness about words does lead to the occasional dislike of the term “First Nations” used very commonly here. I do think we need reminding of the nature of European colonization and worse. But a propos of the previous 2-word paragraph, something like ‘second last nation’ would be closer to factual accuracy. The takeover by Inuit of the far north, likely all within the last few thousand years, is a case in point where I understand there is concrete evidence of earlier but now extinct Dorset people.

      The difficulty is finding a suitable replacement which is more accurate. Anyway, I’d be ignored.

    2. Well if you buy the concept of “winners get the land, losers walk,” the ancestors of the native Americans who walked across the Bering land bridge were the folks oppressed and kicked out of the more successful Eurasian tribes.

      Of course, the same thing could be said of pretty much every human group on Earth, except sub-Saharan Africans. 🙂

  10. Indigenous people have been actively engaged in a multidimensional struggle for equality, since time immemorial. …

    So Christopher Columbus counts as “time immemorial”? Or are they trying to claim they were “oppressed” by “whiteness” prior to that?

    1. Maybe going back and changing all the caps to lower case constitutes “doing the work”? She must get paid for something.

  11. This will be a disaster for software developers noMoreCamelCase declarations.

    … and people thought my code was unreadable before…..

    These types of useless gestures actually allow people to feel good about their support for minorities without actually doing anything useful.

    Dan

  12. The alphabet itself is a manifestation of sexist and racial hegemony and must be eliminated so that
    history can break out into a glorious era of freedom and equality.

    1. The Alphabet is a hierarchy! Why should the letters be in that order. All letters are created equal. Clearly we should only have one (brand new and lower case) letter so that we can not accidentally oppress any of others.

    1. That’s a bit unfair! Molly’s interior monologue hasn’t got any punctuation, but there are plenty of capital letters, and it’s quite easy to follow. Whereas this woman is unreadable mainly because she has nothing interesting to say.

  13. The legends of the Indigenous Peoples of the NW posit that animals, trees, and geological formations all could talk back in the “time immemorial”. So maybe the people of that time had a real struggle to be heard over the incessant speechifying by beavers, fish, trees, shrubs, and mountains. That’s how it was “multidimensional”. This was all changed when Raven, also known as The Changer came through and changed everything, but word of the change has evidently not yet reached dr. manyguns. .

  14. If the ’cause’ was genuinely felt then even ‘Indigenous People’ would lose its capitals – otherwise one form of ‘oppression’ is being replaced by another.

  15. the way to hump a cow is not
    to get yourself a stool
    but draw a line around the spot
    and call it beautifool

    to multiply because and why
    dividing thens by nows
    and adding and(i understand)
    is hows to hump a cows

    the way to hump a cow is not
    to elevate your tool
    but drop a penny in the slot
    and bellow like a bool

    to lay a wreath from ancient greath
    on insulated brows
    (while tossing boms at uncle toms
    is hows to hump a cows

    the way to hump a cow is not
    to push and then to pull
    but practicing the art of swot
    to preach the golden rull

    to vote for me(all decent mem
    and wonens will allows
    which if they don’t to hell with them)
    is hows to hump a cows

    dr. manyguns is clearly an e.e. cummings fan.

  16. from the mount royal university tweet (@mountroyal4u):

    “dr. linda manyguns joins the lowercase movement to reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and will not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.”

    she rejects the symbols of hierarchy. but does she reject its money? i’m guessing the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at mount royal university makes a lot more than her executive assistant. and I guess she is not de-capitalizing her income (ha-ha) by sharing it with the executive assistant or the other office staff.

  17. It’s a common mistake people make to assume that E.E. Cummings lower-cased his own name. He did not. He used lower-casing as a form of experiment in his poetry, but in writing his own name his capitalization was perfectly conventional (as, I suspect, were all his other non-literary writings — letters, prose, shopping lists etc).

  18. Capitalization is not and never has been about hierarchy, respect, or oppression. In prose it provides visual markers at the beginning of every sentence which, along with punctuation, shows readers where the writer intends a pause or the end of a grammatical unit. In other uses, it distinguishes common from proper nouns (which is how we distinguish Manyguns, a name, from many guns, which is merely an adjective + a noun), or distinguishes a title from ordinary text (which is how we distinguish Why Evolution is True, a blog, from the question of why evolution is true, a proposition relating to evolution).

    The “lower-case movement” is engaging in a form of gaslighting: pretending that capitalization is about respect and hierarchy only in order to find a specious reason to reject it.

    1. You mean the capital “Y” at the beginning of this sentence is not more important than any other letter in it? Who knew?!

      1. Besides that ‘Y’ sin, you committed another sin—of self-reference, reference in a sentence to that very sentence itself. Like the famous “This very sentence itself is not true” of the Cretan in the bible. Not the cretin, mind you.

        Or am I confusing ‘self reference’ with ‘self reverence’?

        Perhaps some Canuck university vice-presidents are more prone to the latter sin.

    1. As well as all punctuation!?#%&@$. Why is she using English? Why not indigenous languages? Where does this all stop?

    1. This reminds me of the time an English actor was interviewed on a breakfast tv show here in England about a Hollywood (hollywood?) role he had recently played. The interviewer asked if he had had to beat off lots of American actors to get the part. The interviewee collapsed into a fit of giggles to the puzzled consternation of the interviewer.

  19. She’s right. In the past, they used more uppercase letters in English than today. The Brits were more oppressive in the past. Who were among the most oppressive people in history? Surely The Germans were, too. Who writes a lot of uppercase? The Germans. Case closed. If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit!*

    * the Chewbacca Defense was a spoof of Johnny Cochran’s OJ defense, which was actually an early example of Critical Race Theory, aka wokeness.

  20. You know who else used a lot of lowercase letters in prose? Romans! And you know who likes Romans! White supremacists!

      1. They used all lowercase (except for proper nouns) in prose and what do you mean it wasn’t invented? You think Romans didn’t write notes? Entire letters to one another in the archaeological record say otherwise.

  21. Point of information: The capitalisation of “indigenous” in the second paragraph of the statement quoted by Jerry was not accidentally done by Jerry in copying it to this post. “Indigenous” is capitalised in the original statement. This was probably a mistake rather than a deliberate omission.

Leave a Reply