god and the rebellious typographer

RadioB's picture

why is it considered rude or insulting to set the word ‘god’ with only the first letter as a capital (God) or with no capitals (god)?, why does it have to be GOD? is it so his/her/it’s name can tower above all other words? in that case is it rude to set it in small caps? and what if the typographer or author doesn’t believe in GOD can it then just be ‘god’?
I prefer ‘god’ since their are quite a few of them.

I'm not talking about religious books, the book I noticed it in was about Casanova and in one chapter there was a GOD sticking out every couple of sentences.

Theunis de Jong's picture

Jack Vance poked fun with this in his fantasy trilogy "Lyonesse" by having his 'priests' consequently refer to "The god":

"The god wants you to build a huge cathedral ..."

Somewhere in history the definitive article got lost, transposing the noun into a name. (Or possible a Name.)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I've first hand witnessed (and tried in vain to correct) pentecostals capitalizing anything and everything that has even the slightest whiff of holyness. Pay no attention to them :) When "God" is refering to a name, let it be capitalized, in any other situation just write "god". Unless your Style Guide commands you Otherwise.

And personally, as a believer, I don't find it offending at all.

quadibloc's picture

My understanding is that one normally writes "God" when referring to... God, and "god" when referring to pagan deities. There may be a tradition in which GOD is written, but I am not familiar with it.

In certain translations of the Bible, the word LORD is written in all capitals, or with a capital L, and the rest in small capitals, when it is being substituted for the Divine Name (the Tetragrammaton, Yod-He-Vau-He).

I am primarily aware of Roman Catholic usage in this matter. The word "God" is capitalized when referring to God, as are any other nouns that refer to Him (i.e., the Creator, the Trinity) or personal pronouns referring to Him, or any of the Persons of the Trinity (i.e., the Holy Spirit, God the Father).

Incidentally, note that Jesus Christ is not a proper name as popularly believed. It is derived from the Greek Iesous Khristos, and thus literally means Joshua the Anointed. Thus, capitalizing Christ is an example of capitalizing a common noun, as opposed to a proper name, when it refers to a Person of the Trinity.

As far as I am aware, some Protestant denominations follow Catholic usage, and others have their own rules which do not require capitalization to the same extent.

JamesM's picture

I've worked on several religion-related projects and have never been asked to put it in all caps, nor is it in all caps in any of the 3 different Bibles I have on my bookshelf. It's just been "God".

> the book I noticed it in was about Casanova

So is your question based on usage in just one particular book? Maybe it was just a preference of that author.

RadioB's picture

Hi James,
I just checked a bible we have at home and it is in small caps, another book has it as 'God the Merciful' (Why capital M?!), so that answers 2 of my questions. I guess their aren't any specific rules to it. It could be God, GOD, or small caps GOD.

Thanks to everyone for the responses.

"Incidentally, note that Jesus Christ is not a proper name as popularly believed. It is derived from the Greek Iesous Khristos, and thus literally means Joshua the Anointed. Thus, capitalizing Christ is an example of capitalizing a common noun, as opposed to a proper name, when it refers to a Person of the Trinity"

Don't you wish everyone just followed the rules, they're capitalizing common nouns and adjectives. :>

Their should be 10 typographic commandments "thou shall not capitalize adjectives" ...

guifa's picture

RadioB: Titles such as "God the Merciful" or "Prince of Peace" amongst numerous others are just that, titles and are, by long precedent, capitalized.

Look at most nicknames given to monarchs, such as Richard the Lionheart, Edmund the Magnificent, Edward the Pious, even James the "Be-shitten".

The rules are being followed, capitalizing a common noun makes it no longer a common noun.

I generally prefer God for the written form, though as an admitted small-caps whore, it's a nice touch to use small caps for the same purpose.

Transcender's picture

"Jesus Christ is not a proper name as popularly believed. It is derived from the Greek Iesous Khristos, and thus literally means Joshua the Anointed".

The popular Christian fish comes also comes from the Greek forichthys, an acronym for Iēsous Khristos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr, or "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour".

dezcom's picture

I think authors and editors will make that call for you if they really care about it. Personally, I don't see any reason to only capitalize the christian god--all or none, from Alah to Isis, Budda to Baal, Druid to Dyonisis, if you cap one, cap them all.
If you are the author, do it your way.

AzizMostafa's picture

@ and what if the typographer or author doesn’t believe in GOD can it then just be ‘god’?
-
… then, there is no problem to solve?!
that typographer needs not to make a glyph for GOD or God in his/her work, and
that author needs not to worry about something that would be missing in his/her book?!

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

When "God" is refering to a name, let it be capitalized, in any other situation just write "god".

IMHO, “God” is a term improperly used by Christianity and Judaism as a proper name for their deity. This only makes sense if you think that there is only one god, so you can’t be confused: the others can be idols, demons, deities, false gods, but no “God”. A bit arrogant, I think.

So when I have the chance I name the Christian god as Yahweh — YHWH and Jehovah are acceptable variants. Or, if I want to refer to the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, then I go for “Trinity”. Of course, I don’t have this freedom too often, except on my own writings. If I am working for someone else, the chances are that I must keep the capital (God) or everyone will get upset.

dezcom's picture

Aziz,

We can just think of god names as we do anyone else's proper name. Capitalize the first letter of any proper name, whether it be a particular god's name or any normal mortal. I am not the least bit religious but I think making every proper name follow the same rule is fair, clear, and easy. I believe that many people throughout history have believed in various gods as is their personal choice. I am not interested in all the arguments among religious zealots of all faiths. From what I have seen, the only thing that comes out of it is that people end up getting killed or "Cleansed" or whatever euphemism they choose. From the sheer stupidity of the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition to Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, India and Pakistan, American KKK, Hitler, and soon to be Darfar, people murder each other more in the name of their own god than any other reason. The funny thing is that no religion tells us to go out and kill. Humans just make that all up to excuse their own violent nature and feed their power-hungry greed..

Theunis de Jong's picture

Dez: Amen to that!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Cristolbal: Any of those refered to by their proper name should obviously be capitalized as well. "God" has justover time become the name we use for that particular god. Even if you don't believe in him, you signalize that you are refering to the judeo-christian god.

Dez: Wish I could say amen to that myself. It would be the easy way out, but I happen to know so many beautiful religious people that it just wouldn't be true. Cheers

AzizMostafa's picture

@ ... but I happen to know so many beautiful religious people that it just wouldn't be true

... but I happen to know so many beautiful religious+irreligious people that it just wouldn't be true.
http://typophile.com/node/29708?page=4#comment-172838

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Let’s go to crazy-fanatics.com for the religious discussion, eh? :)

dezcom's picture

"...but I happen to know so many beautiful religious people that it just wouldn't be true. Cheers"

But they are not the ones that start the killing and are often the victims. The lunatics who start it always end up conveniently not being in harms way.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Even if you don't believe in him, you signalize that you are refering to the judeo-christian god.

I agree. It’s just that I prefer other naming solutions for the sake of multiculturalism. I mean, the Christian god has his own proper name, so I use it if I have the chance.

Té Rowan's picture

Why not simply $DEITY in monospaced Computer Modern and then let JRU set the shell variable DEITY in his/her brain shell?

Vladimir Tamari's picture

In Arabic there is no capitalization, but God's name Allah (as it is printed in both Arabic Bibles and in the Koran) has a neat ligature of the last three letters. It is ironical that in Unicode the Lord of Heaven and Earth (caps intended) has a ligature called "Allah Isolated" , isolated of course referring to its being unconnected to other letters. http://www.unicodemap.org/details/0xFDF2/index.html
ل ّ َل ه = لله

quadibloc's picture

The reason for only capitalizing extra words referring to the Christian God is if the author is a Christian, or at least writing for an audience of Christians. In that case, one is both signalling that a pronoun refers to a particular god, and that one believes, or is acknowledging a belief, that the particular god being referred to is the One Real God, all others being imitations.

Because of that, some texts will instead be produced according to a neutral style guide instead of a traditional Christian style guide, just as Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and some atheists will use the abbreviation for "Common Era" instead of that for "Anno Domini". Given that the Western world has been overwhelmingly Christian in the past, and the traditional style was deeply ingrained, however, many people find the neutral style offensive, or at least jarring, which is why it is not universal even in this age of political correctness.

As to the issue raised by Chris Lozos (Dezcom), I hope the following comments of mine will not be too intensely polarizing, but will instead promote clarification:

Does religion produce nothing except people fighting over sectarian differences? Sometimes it may seem that way. One could certainly claim that revealed religion, as opposed to natural religion, is not required for any of the good things that are said to come of religion; one can be an atheist and still care about one's fellow man. But "A is not required for B" is not the same statement as "A does not promote B".

The idea that God appeared to humans in one particular time and place, with one genuine, accurate, and trustworthy revelation - and one official priesthood that requires your support, respect, and obedience - certainly makes religious conflict possible. But it also makes religion easier to understand, and, at least for some people, easier to accept, than would be the case if religion remained on a more abstract or philosophical plane.

Thus, while the kind of religious belief that carries with it the potential for religious conflict is not required for non-violence or charity, it would be unfair not to give traditional revealed religion the credit it is due for further promoting these things than something less intelligible to, and less zealously instilled in, young children would do.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

BTW, should “Christian”, “Christianity” or “Judaism” be capitalized? I am not sure about the English conventions…

dezcom's picture

"...potential for religious conflict is not required for non-violence or charity, it would be unfair not to give traditional revealed religion the credit it is due..."

To quote Spiderman's Uncle, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Organized religion is neither a requirement or even a needed participant for charitable work. There are many members of organized religions that do charitable work. I would imagine that the percentage of devout Christians in the USA who do charitable work is about the same as it is among the rest of the population of the country, including atheists and agnostics. If you are doing helpful things for other people just because you fear an afterlife in hell, then you are far less a good person than if you give of yourself for others simply because you just "know" it is the right thing to do. People had compassion and concern for others long before there was an organized religion to relieve them of the responsibility of just deciding right and wrong on their own.
I am not saying religion is necessarily bad, I am saying it does not absolve us of our personal responsibility to decide to do the right thing. You can believe your reward will be in heaven. I believe your "reward" is simply in the hearts of the people that you help right here on earth. When I die, I will simply decompose and become organic matter for rejuvenation of the soil. Whatever I do, I must do here on earth because there is no second chance afterward. Be charitable NOW for the sake of charity alone. If you do it out of fear for your soul, reward in an afterlife, or to impress others, you are still being selfish while taking what appears to be a selfless action.

With that, I close my sermon and promise not to bother you any more with my views on organized religion.

quadibloc's picture

In English, the names of religous faiths definitely are capitalized: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so on; just as are the names of nations: France, Britain, Belgium; or the names of languages: English, French, Mandarin, Putonghua, Guo-yu, Cantonese, Southern Min, Frisian, Basque; or of language families: Hamitic, Semitic, Indo-European.

All of these, after all, are arguably proper nouns, since they are the names of unique things.

Words derived from names or other proper nouns are also capitalized in English. Thus, words naming ethnicities are almost always capitalized: Caucasian, Polynesian, Jewish, Negro, Asian, Oriental, East Indian, Native American. However, "white", "black", and so on are not capitalized, even when used to refer to people of Caucasian or African origin.

One specific exception to this is that officially SI units derived from proper names are not to be capitalized, contrary to normal English usage. This official ruling is still often ignored in the English-speaking world as it is contrary to long-established habit - thus, one will still tend to see references to A above middle C as having a frequency of 440 Hertz; on the other hand, while Siemens is likely to be capitalized, Ohm usually isn't, from familiarity with it as a unit. But Joule, Newton, Faraday, and Pascal still tend to be capitalized even when used as units, since that is what people are used to from older textbooks.

People who studied science and engineering, that is, because for most people in the English-speaking world, either metric units would not have appeared in most older textbooks, or at least non-compound units of quantities (Pascal rather than pounds per square inch, Hertz rather than cycles per second) other than length, mass, area and volume would not have so appeared.

Mugford's picture

Looks like all-caps GOD had a period of popularity in the 18th c.:

http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=god%2CGOD&year_start=1500&yea...

You could print His Name in red ink; or you could write it "G-d" as some do.

Or to please everyone:

I hope not to be struck by lightning for my flippancy.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Thanks John (quadibloc)!

Bert Vanderveen's picture

The acronym for Great Outline Designer is (of course!) all caps: GOD.

quadibloc's picture

The Ngrams result is interesting, but the conventional form "God", when put in as a third alternative, far exceeds the other two in popularity. And it has a peak as well, though: from 1670 to 1710, earlier than the much smaller 1710-1770 peak of the all-caps form.

Also, a look through Google Books leads me to suspect that the majority of the occurrences of "GOD" were not in the midst of lowercase text, but were simply within all-caps chapter headings and the like.

Mugford's picture

Good points.

Syndicate content Syndicate content