Our Alt-Universe


A year ago, on the day after April Fools’ Day, the Associated Press announced that soon internet would no longer begin with a capital letter. No fooling.

This was the announcement:

“We will lowercase internet effective June 1, when the 2016 Stylebook launches.”

And they explained:

“. . . the lowercase spelling is in line with the public utility aspect of the net, just as radio and television are spelled down as generic terms in mass communications.”

When the AP changed its internet style, others followed. The New York Times offered this justification: “Modern usage tends to favor less capitalization — along with fewer hyphens and less punctuation in general.”

And the Wall Street Journal:
“. . . usage is clearly trending lowercase, treating internet as nothing but a generic noun for the global computer network, as deserving of lowercase as television and cable. It will seem strange to many of us to start using it lowercase, but lowercasing proponents note that phonograph was once uppercase, too. Time to move the needle, once again.”

Step back a few light years, however, and you get a grander explanation: It’s another sign that our universe is expanding — or perhaps creating a whole nother universe. Liberated from the capital letter that still holds back Mercury, Venus, and other fellow travelers of our solar system, internet now keeps company in our minds with lowercase earth, sun, moon, and universe itself, free to expand without limits.

In fact, the internet may be the alt-universe, visited by more and more people, both alt-right and alt-left, to lead their alt-lives there, more and more of the time. As E.E. Cummings wrote prophetically in 1944, long before the internet came into being: “listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.”

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