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To ICANN or not to Icann

23 August 2007
By Maria Farrell

It’s irritated me for ages that whenever you see a reference to ICANN in the British press, it’s always called ‘Icann’. This gets right up my nose, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. The practice of denying us our God-given capital letters just seems a bit cheeky. And I could never understand the logic.

But Seth Finkelstein has solved the mystery. He has written a couple of pieces on ICANN-related issues for the Guardian*, and asked their copy editor why they changed his ICANN to Icann. The Guardian newspaper’s style guide says:

“Use all caps only if the abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters; otherwise spell the word out: the BBC, ICI, VAT, but Isa, Nato.”

Case closed. Except…

… except, I still think it looks funny, and wonder if we should have a style guide of our own. For example, the Guardian always says ‘internet’ instead of ‘Internet’. Now, ‘internet’ would be fine if they were talking about when you and your mates plug a few networks together into a finite little loop. But they’re not, they mean the global internet, the internet of internets, the ur-internet, the motherlode of all things internet; the Internet, in fact.

‘E-mail’ is another one. As far as I remember, the Economist style guide still recommends hyphenating the word. But if they want to be consistent, they should call a pram a perambulator, and a bus an omnibus, since that’s what we called them when they were invented in the nineteenth century. Maybe we called email ‘e-mail’ back in the twentieth century. But today it’s ‘email’, plain and simple.

Since ICANN is forever being accused of mission creep, perhaps the community should embrace this and create a proper Internet style guide to set the Luddites straight.

* Seth’s recent Guardian piece is here, and we got talking about a piece on new gTLDs I wrote here.

Authors

Maria Farrell