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English speakers and their 'ego' problems

The first-person singular pronouns carry a fair bit of baggage. The Monitor's language columnist tries to unpack some of it.

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The trinity of "me, myself, and I" is well enough established to be the title of songs performed by Billie Holiday and Beyoncé Knowles as well as of a play by Edward Albee. Just to keep us straight on all this, Wikipedia has a disambiguation page on the phrase.

That we use these words every day doesn't mean we use them correctly, of course. One question that swirls around the nominative pronoun, "I," is, why it is always capitalized?

It's a fairly common online search. And what some of the discussion lacks in grammatical acumen, it compensates for in psychological insight:

"Hello, as a frenchie I just thought about this question about the I capitalized and I think English and American people have strong 'myself.' I mean, what is important in life? YOU, what you decide to do, to be, to love etc."

Another commenter on the same blog seemed to pick up that thread:

"The capital 'I' always reminds me of the english individualism. If only it was small, the world would have been a better place!"

Ah, if only!

"I" standing alone is such a little word to describe something that can be enormous: the ego. It's capitalized nowadays because it was once thought too little to hold its own on a page. As the Old English ic got whittled down to a single letter, writers and printers started capitalizing it to keep it from getting lost amid the bigger, pushier letters.


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