thoughts in my head: on my i’s.

You’ve all, undoubtedly, noticed a shift in the grammatical structure of my posts as of late. Some of you have commented, messaged, or anonymously posted on forums that my lack of proper grammar is intriguing, jarring, juvenile, or otherwise a little out of place.

For your dissensions, comments, and inquiries: i thank you. Really – i welcome disagreements (they make me better for them).

But i want to explain: this is intentional.

Inspired by one of my favorite poems, i thank You God by E. E. Cummings,* the blogs of my friends Thera and Joel, as well as five years of French class, i’ve decided the time had come for me to blog in the way i write for my own self in my journals, notes, etc.

When i was thirteen and i first learned the tenses and pronouns in French, my understanding and relationship to language underwent a radical shift. For, in French, you never capitalize “je,” the pronoun for “I,” unless it as the beginning of a sentence. As i’d never encountered anything but English (and a few songs about hot chocolate in elementary school Spanish class) this was fundamentally challenging my concept of how we referred to ourselves. It seems silly, but to realize that in French it was unnecessary to make yourself stand taller in written form was pretty profound.

In high school, my women’s chorus was invited, for three years in a row, to participate in a concert of regional women’s choruses, held at UNC-CH. At the closure of the show, we all sang one piece together. My sophomore year, this piece was Eric Whitacre’s musical rendition of the poem by E.E. Cummings, “i thank You God.” Enter my discovery and subsequent love for Cummings, his wordplay, and manipulation of meanings by reworking and rewording and redoing the English Language. Most particularly, i loved how this poem used the lower-case-ness of the “i” to emphasize smallness, finiteness, when compared to the ‘divine, unimaginable You.’

Nearly four years pass, and this summer i (as most of you know) lived in the Karamoja region of Uganda, where i lived with Thera and met Joel (and his lovely wife, Heather!) in South Sudan. If you’ve ever perused my friend Thera’s blog, you’ll notice she hardly ever uses capital letters – her reasons are her own (ask her!) but needless to say, we had a lot of really interesting conversations about grammar and wordplay. Similarly, my friend Joel’s blog posts utilize “I/i” in a way similar to the French language (though i’m uncertain as to his explicit reasoning, but nevertheless very much like the format!).

Which brings us to present. After some interesting writing exercises in my Speaking, Arguing, and Writing tutoring prep class, i realized how much i preferred the French system for capitalizing the notion of the self. For me, this symbolizes my own smallness, insignificance, and equality with words like “you” or “us” or “they.” I mean, why is it that we capitalize the pronoun that’s self – referential, but not the pronoun referring to everyone else? Inspired by all of the aforementioned people, poets, and grammatical lessons, i finally realized it was okay to be “grammatically incorrect” here on my own, personal, blog.

So there it is: my newly-revealed, but actually long-though-out, ideas behind toying with grammar. I recognize, by the very nature of having a blog and considering my ideas to be worth spouting out, i have a considerable, unhealthy level of narcissism. My lower-case’d i’s are a small way to remind myself that, at the end of the day, i’m just a human being with a slightly over-inflated ego and too much to say.

current jam: ‘meadowlarks’ fleet foxes

best thing in my life right now: you! (yes, you)

* who did, in fact, prefer his name to be capitalized

11 thoughts on “thoughts in my head: on my i’s.

  1. aarongraham says:

    I know, I know…I had a friend in college who did the same thing…after reading the same poet! Poems and Blogs are more personal and can reflect the author any way they choose and I admire the spirit that influences this style of writing.


    • lizzie mcmizzie says:

      Thanks! I think college is the prime time for so many people to play with language, and all social structures. Perhaps it is a combination of reading more broadly and being made aware of the world around us! 🙂

  2. Jacob says:

    That was really interesting, I’m going to have to delve into some of his works. Also, my biological father’s name is Joel, and his girlfriend’s name is Heather. Just thought that was somewhat coincidental.

  3. joel says:

    I, too, came to the I/i issue through poetry: a poem written by a very quiet & intelligent fellow with whom i attended university. I’m sure if i asked him, there would be an E.E. Cummings influence in there. His poem highlighted the arrogance of capitalizing only the pronoun referring to oneself.

    Actually, now that i’m thinking about it, i was first introduced to the stylistic side of using no capitalization by a friend in junior high/middle school. Huh.

    Anyway, being a bit of a grammarian/grammarphile & punctophile (okay, a LOT of both of those) led me to eschew the more extreme non-capitalization across the board. I’ve now embraced the capital I when beginning a sentence, and the lowercase i when it appears anywhere else in the sentence. Unless of course i’m writing a work-related email/proposal/et cetera, in which case i always capitalize the I.

    • lizzie mcmizzie says:

      Thanks for the insight, Joel! I too follow what i think to be similar rules in terms of capitalization. For, if i were to commence a sentence with “you” i would capitalize it then! Hoping things are well!! 🙂

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