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When I was a child, in order to read, I first learned my “abc’s”: 26 peculiar symbols that, in combination, could spell out words like “dog” or “cat”.
Then, as if 26 letters were not enough, I had to learn that each of the first “small” letters I used also had a corresponding “large” letter–its “capital” or “upper-case” form. Now I had a total of 52 different symbols to learn to recognize, sound out, and write.
If there were no difference between word written with lower-case letters (a, b, c) and words written with both lower-case and upper-case (A, B, C) letters, why bother having upper-case letters? Why have both “a” and “A,” “b” and “B,” and “c” and “C,” if the each the two letters in each pair didn’t mean something significantly different?
In the case of mixed upper- and lower-case letters–like “Cat”–we learned that when the first letter of a word was capitalized (upper case) as with capital “C,” the word was a proper noun/ proper name. In this example, “Cat” might be the nickname for a woman named “Catherine” or it might be the name of a town (“Cat, Idaho”). The capitalized word was a “proper noun” that signified a particular man, woman or place.
The word “cat,” on the other hand, was a common noun used to signify a class of entities such as felines.
Clearly, capital letters are important in communication. They help to eliminate ambiguity. Without capital letters, when I write “fluffy” am I using the word as an adjective to describe the quality of an animals fur? Or am I using the word “fluffy” to signify a particular cat? The mix of lower- and upper-case letters expands and clarifies our language, making it more versatile and efficient for communicating a broad spectrum of knowledge and information.
However, if I write the word “fluffy” in an all-upper-case format (“FLUFFY”) the meaning becomes confused, ambiguous. Am I using “FLUFFY” as an adjective to signify that the fur is “fluffy”? Or am I using “FLUFFY” to signify the proper name (“Fluffy”) of a particular cat?
Here are two sentences to illustrate the enormous value of capitalization: 1) “The cat I saw was fluffy.” 2) “The cat I saw was Fluffy.” In the first sentence, the speaker saw one of a multitude of cats whose fur appeared to be “fluffy”. In the second sentence, the speaker saw a particular cat whose name was “Fluffy”. The two sentences are virtually identical except for the presence of a single, capital letter. That single capital letter completely changes the meaning of the sentence.
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