They Have the Internet on Computers Now…?

by Dave

Problem(s)

I just found out how to make ice cream on the Internet!

Solution(s)

I just found out how to make ice cream on the internet!

Explanation

Ignoring the ambiguity of that problem sentence, most dictionaries and style guides will tell you to capitalize the word “internet”. Always.

And they’re serious!

I don’t know when the stylistas went insane, but it was some time before they decided that the word “internet” was as important as our first person singular pronoun.

For their sake, let us review the case for the capitalization of “internet”.

One ought always to capitalize a proper noun. Is “internet” a proper noun? Let’s give it a shot. “Hey, I saw that article on Internet the other day!” Uhh…no.

Every so often, place names that are not proper nouns are capitalized as if they were. The word “Capitol” comes to mind. But before we get into a discussion about whether the internet is important enough of a place to be capitalized, is the internet a place? No.

We’re rapidly running out of possibilities… Uhh, let’s see… Single-letter abbreviations are capitalized (so M.D. is capitalized, but the “grad.” in “grad. student” isn’t). Is “internet” a single-letter abbreviation? No.

Hmm… Acronyms are generally capitalized. Is “internet” an acronym? Hmm… “Information Network to Expedite Really Neat Electronic…Treatises”? No.

Is “internet” the name of a country, like the Netherlands? Nope.

Okay. So what’s the deal? Why is this word capitalized? Frankly, I find it disturbing. Capitalizing the word “internet” is precisely the type of thing that George Orwell would want to warn us against. The internet is not a person! It’s not even a place! As I understand it, it’s a series of tubes that…can get clogged, and make it so your e-mails don’t arrive when you think they ought…

Seriously, the “internet” is nothing more than a series of servers around the world connected by wires (or now wirelessly, making the connection even more tenuous). If the internet is a place, then so is the telephone grid, or the mail system. We don’t capitalize those, though.

So, if you’re capitalizing the word internet, I ask you—I beg you, from the bottom of my heart: Stop it! Just stop it! There’s no point to it! It’s nonsense! Whenever I see the word “internet” capitalized, I feel like strangling myself with a live cobra. (That’s one of the many reasons why I don’t read The New Yorker anymore.)

I’m not too worried, though. Capitalizing “internet” takes a lot more effort than not capitalizing it. Seeing as it’s also unnecessary, I bet the practice will have disappeared in about fifty years. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting. And watching. On the internet!