Whatâ€™s the difference between an â€˜Iâ€™ and an â€˜iâ€™? Difference in size and form! And most probably, thatâ€™s the only difference. Alphabetically and linguistically, a small â€˜iâ€™ can serve exactly the same purpose as the capital I. For quite a while now, the largest daily of the world, The Times of India, has discarded the use of capital â€˜Iâ€™ except in the beginning of a sentence. Elsewhere in the paper, itâ€™s a small â€˜iâ€™ they prefer to use, possibly to the chagrin of purists whose mother tongue is English.
Practically, there is no firm logic, neither any hard-and-fast rule as to why the first person singular, and not other pronouns, should be obligatorily written in capital. Ostensibly, therefore, a capital â€˜Iâ€™ can well be replaced by a small â€˜iâ€™. And therein lies an associated advantage: small â€˜iâ€™ requires â€˜less ink and spaceâ€™ than big â€˜Iâ€™. At a time when every small care counts when it comes to fighting global warming, is not saving even a drop of ink or a sheet of paper important vis-Ã -vis the impending disaster?
Jug Suraiya, a columnist in the newspaper in question, once argued that omitting the definite article â€˜theâ€™ from the English language can save a lot of space (and ink, again!) in newspapers and books; and a lot of time and energy of readers: after all, why should they be made to recite, as if it were an enlightening mantra, the monosyllabic theâ€¦theâ€¦ theâ€¦ perhaps millions of times?
Old-fashioned words disappear from and new words appear in dictionaries every time they are reprinted. In French for instance, each year, between 100 and 150 new words on average appear in and disappear from the latest dictionaries. As an international language, the number should be greater in English.
Language, like life, keeps evolving â€” in terms of words as well as grammar. Thatâ€™s why, generally, nobody thinks of writing or speaking (chances are nobody can, after all!) in
the Bardâ€™s language today, even if it is breathtakingly beautiful.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise if, in the course of linguistic evolution, â€˜theâ€™ and capital letters become extinct in English dictionaries and grammar books. And presumably, other languages may as well be prompted to bring about similar changes.