From the May 2003 Idaho Observer:
Are we flesh and blood or a legal fiction?
by The Idaho Observer
Who are we? More than just the perennial philosophical question, who we are has taken on new meaning when applied to the investigation of government's use of the ALL CAPS name to identify us. Many observations and theories have been promoted to explain the phenomena -- some more bizarre than others. The foregoing anonymous research has come our way and sheds some interesting light on the subject -- who are we -- in the schemes of government administrators -- and who are they? This month we will explore the world of style, grammar and usage with regard to ALL CAPS names.
Why is JOHN JAMES SMITH commonly substituted for John James Smith in all court documents, driver's licenses, bank accounts, birth certificates, etc?
Is this some special English grammar rule or style? Is it a contemporary American style of English? Is the use of this form of capitalization recognized by educational authorities? Is this an official judicial or U.S. government rule and/or style of grammar? Why do lawyers, court clerks, prosecutors, judges, insurance companies, banks, and credit card companies always use all capital letters when writing proper names?
What English grammar experts say
One of the foremost authorities on American English grammar, style, composition, and rules is The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). In response to a written inquiry regarding the use of all caps for proper names, CMS editors replied:
Writing names in all caps is not conventional; it is not Chicago style to put anything in all caps. For instance, even if 'GONE WITH THE WIND' appears on the title page all in caps, we would properly render it 'Gone with the Wind' in a bibliography. The only reason we can think of to do so is if you are quoting some material where it is important to the narrative to preserve the casing of the letters.
We're not sure in what context you would like your proper name to appear in all caps, but it is likely to be seen as a bit odd.
We then contacted Mary Newton Bruder, Ph.D., also known as the Grammar Lady. Dr. Bruder's reply was short and to the point:
It must be some kind of internal style. There is no grammar rule about it.
Colin T. Clarkson from Cambridge University researched consulted several authoritative British guides to grammar and usage. I find no grammatical rule which defines a situation in which all the letters of a name or, indeed, of any word should appear as capitals. Rather the use of capitals or small capitals in this way is simply a typographical device used for emphasis, for example of headings or keywords, he said.
Our research indicates spelling names in all capital letters is outside the rules of both American and British grammar.
The Manual on Usage & Style, Eighth Edition, published by the Texas Law Review in 1995, states in Section D, CAPITALIZATION, paragraph D: 1:1:
Always capitalize proper nouns. [Proper nouns], independent of the context in which they are used, refer to specific persons, places, or things (e.g., Dan, Austin, Rolls Royce).
Paragraph D: 3:2 of Section D states:
Capitalize People, State, and any other terms used to refer to the government as a litigant (e.g., the People's case, the State's argument), but do not capitalize other words used to refer to litigants (e.g., the plaintiff, defendant Manson).
It appears that not a single lawyer, judge, or law clerk in Texas has ever read their own recognized law style manual as they continue to write Plaintiff, Defendant, THE STATE OF TEXAS and proper names of parties in all capital letters.
Contemporary all caps
In The American Heritage Book of English Usage, A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English, published in 1996, at Chapter 9, E-Mail, Conventions and Quirks, Informality, they state:
To give a message special emphasis, an E-mailer may write entirely in capital letters, a device E-mailers refer to as screaming. Some of these visual conventions have emerged as a way of getting around the constraints on data transmission that now limit many networks.
Here is a contemporary reference source, that states it's an informal manner to write every letter of an electronic message in capital letters. They say it's screaming to do so. Are judges, their court clerks and lawyers screaming at us when they print our proper names in this manner?
Does this also imply that those in the legal profession are writing our names informally on court documents? Aren't attorneys and the courts supposed to be formal and specific?
U.S. Government Style Manual
The United States Government Printing Office, in its Style Manual, March, 1984 edition (the most recent edition published as of March, 2000), provides comprehensive grammar, style and usage for all government publications, including court and legal writing.
Chapter 3, Capitalization, prescribes rules for proper names:
Proper names are capitalized. [such as] Rome, Brussels, John Macadam, Macadam family, Italy, Anglo-Saxon.
At Chapter 17, Courtwork, the rules of capitalization, as mentioned in Chapter 3, are further reiterated:
In the titles of cases the first letter of all principal words are capitalized, but not such terms as defendant and appellee.
This wholly agrees with Texas Law Review's Manual on Usage & Style, that is, all proper names are to be spelled with capital first letters; the balance of each spelled with lower case letters.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has published one of the most concise U.S. government resources on capitalization. NASA publication SP-7084, Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization, A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors. At Chapter 4. Capitalization, it states in 4.1 Introduction:
First we should define terms used when discussing capitalization:
Full caps means that every letter in an expression is capital, LIKE THIS.
Caps & lc means that the principal words of an expression are capitalized, Like This.
Elements in a document such as headings, titles, and captions may be capitalized in either sentence style or headline style: Sentence style calls for capitalization of the first letter, and proper nouns of course. Headline style calls for capitalization of all principal words (also called caps & lc).
Here we see that in headlines, titles, captions, and in sentences, there is no authorized usage of full caps.
At 4.4.1. Capitalization With Acronyms, we find the first authoritative use of full caps:
Acronyms are always formed with capital letters. Acronyms are often coined for a particular program or study and therefore require definition. The letters of the acronym are not capitalized in the definition unless the acronym stands for a proper name.
This cites that using full caps is allowable in an acronym. Acronyms are words formed from the initial letters of successive parts of a term. They never contain periods and are often not standard, so that definition is required.
Could this apply to proper names? If it did, then JOHN SMITH would have to follow a definition of some sort, like John Orley Holistic Nutrition of the Smith Medical Institute To Holistics (JOHN SMITH).
The most significant section appears at 4.5.3. Administrative Names:
Official designations of political divisions and of other organized bodies are capitalized:
Names of political divisions
Names of governmental units
According to this official U.S. government publication, the States are never to be spelled in full caps such as NEW YORK STATE. The proper English grammar style is New York State. This agrees, once again, with Texas Law Review's Manual on Usage & Style.
One important area to address, before going any further, is the governmental use of older data storage from the late 1950s until the early 1980s. As a leftover from various teletype-oriented systems, many government data storage methods used full caps for proper names. At first, this may have been a necessity of the technology at the time, not a deliberate act. Perhaps, when this technology was first being used and implemented into the mainstream of communications, some legal experts saw it as a perfect tool in the creation of corporations and other legal fictions.
However, since local, state and federal offices primarily used typewriters during that same time period, and birth certificates and other important documents, such as driver's licenses, were produced with typewriters, it's very doubtful that this poses much of an excuse to explain full caps usage for proper names. The only reasonable usage of the older databank full caps storage systems would have been for addressing envelopes or certain forms in bulk, including payment checks, which the governments did frequently.
Automated computer systems, with daisy wheel and pin printers used prevalently in the early 1980s, emulated the IBM electric typewriter Courier or Helvetica fonts in both upper and lower case letters. Shortly thereafter, the introduction of laser and ink jet printers with multiple fonts became the standard. For the past 15 years, there is no excuse that the government computers won't allow the use of lower case letters unless the older data is still stored in its original form, i.e. full caps, and has not been translated due to the costs of re-entry. This does not excuse the entry of new data, only legacy data. In fact, on many government forms today, proper names are in full caps while other areas of the same computer produced document are in both upper and lower case. One can only conclude that now, more than ever, the use of full caps in writing a proper name is no mistake.
Note: Published work is edited to conform to accepted forms of style and grammar usage. Our research has uncovered no British, American, government or legal style or grammar rule that provides for the ALL CAPS spelling of names on legal documents.
Our research has produced a contemporary reference to ALL CAPS usage -- an informal email style called SCREAMING.
We also found justifications for ALL CAPS names for data entry and computer memory purposes is illogical.
Why then does government insist upon representing our names in ALL CAPS in the absence of rules that command it to do so?
Next month we will take up with the concept of legal fiction. From legal fictions we discover legal and lawful persons, public debt and bankruptcy and how they apply to ordinary people just trying to live their lives and provide a decent home for their children.
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WHO ARE WE?
When asked, most people born in one of the 50 states will describe themselves as U.S. citizens. While that may be true for most Americans, it may not be the most personally advantageous form of citizenship available to a person born in one of the several United States.
A debate has been raging for years as to the significance of our names and how they are represented on government documents versus how we write them out in our private lives. On one side of the debate we have those who believe names, as represented in all capital (JOHN JAMES SMITH, for example) letters is merely a matter of style and in no way denotes a citizenship status different than the one indicated by the grammatically-correct John James Smith spelling of our name.
After consulting the world's foremost authorities on English grammar, style and usage (including government style manuals) and; after analyzing the outcome of various federal court cases, we can make a convincing argument that government recognizes more than one kind of citizenship. We can also argue that government insists upon reproducing our names in all capital letters because it represents the type of citizenship it prefers for us.
When people interact with one another, citizenship status is fundamentally irrelevant. Citizenship status is, however, critically important when experiencing the relationship between ourselves and government. It is in our best interest to know where we stand in that relationship. See article page 7.
The Declaration of Independence respectfully and eloquently states that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and property. It then lists the actions of a king which were in violation of those rights. This document defines the American: Self-reliant, civilly responsible and free of government intrusion into his private life.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 declared the intent of the federal government to meddle in state affairs and create a new type of citizen not described in the Constitution. In legal contemplation, the U.S. (or 14th Amendment) citizen does not have the same unalienable rights as a state citizen -- he has privileges granted to him by government. ~(DWH)
The Idaho Observer
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Spirit Lake, Idaho 83869