Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
October 2nd, 2007


Random acts of capitalization

“But Mr. T, I wanna be a big letter too!”

Intercapping has always bothered me, particularly in the form of “Stanfordized” constructions like HoHo, TresEx, and the abominable HooTow. But then again, I prefer “CompSci” to the more opaque “CS” when describing my major to lay people.

In some industries, it’s become a show of power to sport as many names as possible under your umbrella, with intercaps to economize the use of punctuation. In that respect, PricewaterhouseCoopers is quite the powerful firm: somehow, PwC derived their name from various companies named after Price, Holyland, Waterhouse, Cooper, Lybrand, Ross, Montgomery, McDonald, and Currie. Apparently not everyone could fit under the umbrella. I think this is what competitor Deloitte & Touche had in mind for when they shortened their trade name to Deloitte. (With the trailing period.) Type foundry Hoefler & Frere-Jones notes how companies have recently begun eschewing intercaps, but in the process have introduced some surprising problems:

When I first saw the banner unfurled on Sixth Avenue, I figured The One Ill Building was the Beastie Boys’ first foray into urban planning. (Long overdue, if you ask me: if Jade Jagger can be an architect’s muse, why not the King Ad-Rock?) If not a real estate development, then surely theoneillbuilding.com was promoting a new documentary about sick building syndrome, perhaps narrated by Al Gore.

Back at Stanford, I’m heartened to find that “Stanfordization” is becoming a bit less prevalent on campus. Since the Undergraduate Library (UGLI) was renamed Meyer Library some years ago, I’ve never heard anyone call it MeLi. (Though it would be fitting to give the home of Stanford’s East Asia collection such an Asian-sounding moniker.) And when the CoHo was replaced by The Axe and Palm, there were no notable attempts at shortening the new eatery’s name to “ThAxPa”. Let’s just hope it stays that way. I wouldn’t want to eat at a place whose name sounds like pain medication.

Via John Gruber.


  1. I think that one of the attractive features of this phenomenon on the Stanford campus is that it creates a mini-language for Stanford affiliated people. Languages are a great way for communities to define themselves and create an us/them divide. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

    1. That’s an interesting point, and it reminds me of how boarding schools (especially those in the UK) are known for their colorful subset of English. Maybe the blame (or praise) goes to the donors who had campus buildings named after them. It seems plausible that Stanford’s taste for mushing words together was born out of a necessity to abbreviate unpronounceable or unspellable names to the more palatable Rinc and Dink, for instance. Or maybe we intercap simply because we find Memorial to be such a generic name for a church, and Coffee House similarly bland.