Capitalization of the “I”

Have you ever noticed that “we” isn’t capitalized, that “you” isn’t capitalized? So why is “I” capitalized? What does it mean? And lastly, In what way is it capitalized?

More importantly than why “I” is capitalized, what seems noteworthy is the subtle inherent suggestion that is made by the capitalization. The suggestion is that it is a proper noun, which it is not. It is a pronoun. In step with their uppercase beginnings, proper nouns carry a certain amount of authority. A certain amount of place, of legitimacy. Lending the capitalization to the letter “I” likewise extends a bit of legitimacy to the whole idea of “I”. Is there something weak about this i that feels somewhat bolstered by the capitalization?

Other languages don’t capitalize this pronoun. Only English. The German word for i is ich. Ironically, if you translate the english word ego into German, you get ich. In fact, Freud didn’t come up with the word ego -the word he used was ich. The translation to english somehow warranted the use of the latin word ego, meaning “i”. Studying and thinking of the idea of ego as “I” shifts it from a disembodied concept to something that we identify with on a daily basis. It is easy to attack the ego because it safely qualifies in the category of other. Moving it to the i brings it closer to home in a way that forces us to deal with it as something more personal, more real. Studying I from this vantage point is something of an invitation for reflection in a way that is quite different than studying about a theory of the ego. The latter of which can be more easily studied as an object. But clearly, the value of studying I is much more interesting, practical and when done regularly, enlightening. If Plato said know thy ego, it would land completely differently than saying know thyself. Because lets face it, no one wants to identify with the ego. It doesn’t smell like a rose.

By error, omission or dumb luck, it seems the i has some defenses working for it. But why? Is it really so fragile that we should substitute the word ego and make it capitalized as well? Is it too tiny and fragile to be lower case? The word “a” seems to be holding its own as a lower case letter.

Ironically, we seem to be living in a culture that has asserted the sense of “I” over and above what might be considered healthy. Individual rights seem to have run amuck to the point of wealth accumulation in the hands of very few at the expense of many. Likewise, responsibilities of the “I” of younger generations seems to be increasing at break neck speed. But if that neck doesn’t belong to “I”, than it seems it is someone else’s problem. This rampant individualism may be seen quite differently in a decade or two. It seems this I has been growing for some time. How big will it get? Should we make some attempts to reel it back in (or real it back in as the case may be)? Maybe it will make a difference to Our children which is something We will value more in the future, should we begin to start planning ahead for Our future. It seems the “i” has capitalized at Our expense for long enough.

About Turning Towards Essence

Trained in Psychology, Yoga & Spiritual Guidance, Steve Woolf employs meditation, inquiry, poetry, art, drama and yoga to guide people towards their essence.
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