YouTube comments written all in capitals may be worth avoiding – but there's nothing wrong with a little burst of caps lock drama
HELLO! WHAT IS THIS? THE WORK OF A FEVERED MIND, TAKING A BREAK FROM FASHIONING TINFOIL HATS TO SAY SOMETHING ON THE INTERNET? WELL, MAYBE. BUT TODAY IS ALSO INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY. O, FRABJOUS DAY – REJOICE!
Caps lock: a tiny button with the ability to entirely change the tone of whatever missive you're crafting at your word processor. What does caps lock mean? It means you are SERIOUS, that you wish to impart information of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE, that the reader WILL NOT WANT TO MISS THIS. It means you are SHOUTING, usually borderline racist nonsense beneath a YouTube video. It is largely, but not exclusively, the preserve of the unhinged in the comments section. It is a warning, a SIGN, a useful calling card: HERE BE DRAGONS.
A quick search on Amazon throws up this $83 book, BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!! by Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson. Aside from her fearlessness in using caps and double exclamation marks in the title, Strong-Anderson made the bold choice to write the book entirely in capital letters. This is either mad, or genius (reserve your judgment until you have read the book, I say).
As someone who grew up on comics and graphic novels, I was always interested to note that the speech bubbles almost always featured all caps. Back then, there were no connotations of caps being shouty. The characters spoke only in urgent cap locks, from my favourite of all time (Ghost Rider – no judgment, please) to the camptastic POW! and BLAM! of the 1960s Batman series. When I saw Christopher Nolan's latest incarnation of the Dark Knight, I liked to think the growly, terse tone Christian Bale used while in costume was his way of capping it up for the screen. It was his way of saying "BANG!" and "WHAMM!" in these more straitlaced, serious times.
Can a work of great literary value be written in all caps? Could you imagine Brideshead Revisited as BRIDESHEAD REVISITED? Could you see a quiet, contemplative book, The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, say, written ENTIRELY IN ALL CAPS? The thought stirs up the beginnings of a migraine. It certainly works more often the other way around – from authors who stylise their names in diminutive lowercase (e e cummings, bell hooks, for example), to those who write entire passages in lowercase. Half of John Green and David Levithan's recent book, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, is written in lowercase to delineate which of the two protagonists (both with the same name) is speaking. Humorist Don Marquis's collection of his archy and mehitabel columns were written entirely in lowercase – archy, a free verse poet, was also a cockroach, and lacked the strength to use the shift key on the typewriter.
Caps locks are, for me, a nice, useful and occasional way of drawing attention to something. They make a noise and very quickly sit down again. They are a shorthand for drama and intense bursts of activity. International Caps Lock Day is a lovely thought, though. It's here for a short time, a good, noisy time. And then it goes away again. MARVELLOUS.