Sunday, July 03, 2005

WHAT THE HEll?

This post has been moved to the permanent page: What the L?

HEllO AND WElCOME!

If you are confused by the subject of this blog, don't worry, I am too. The case of the lowercase L has been a mystery to me for many years, and it continues to baffle me even as I investigate this unusual phenomenon.

The gist of lowercase L is this: I have noticed that, when people create handwritten signs, they sometimes choose to capitalize every letter except the letter "L". I can understand using some lowercase letters like "i" and "y", to stylize the handwriting. But why confuse matters by using the only letter that, when lowercase, is identical to an uppercase "I"?

At first I thought this unusual writing habit was an anomaly. Growing up in rural south New Jersey, when I'd see handwritten yard sale posts that read "FOR SAlE", I figured it was just a slip of the magic marker. And as a college freshman, while it irked me that my fellow dorm mates produced tee-shirts that read "STONE HAll", I didn't give it much thought.

But now, having lived in NYC for ten years, I have seen the lowercase L rubbing shoulders with uppercase company more often than you might imagine. So often, in fact, that I wanted to bring the case of the lowercase L to the attention of the public.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum for people to submit their photos of lowercase L sightings, and to discuss the psychology of the lowercase L offender. And if you are one of those people guilty of writing all-caps signs with lowercase L's, we welcome and look forward to understanding your unique perspective in this matter.

Thank you all ... NOW LET'S BlOG!

37 comments:

CRC said...

Amazing topic. I never really noticed this phenomenon. But now, I'll probably start seeing lowercase l's on signs all over the place.

Anonymous said...

I am guilty of the lower case "l". But I think the reason for it is simple....its all about the spacing. Look at all you pics...if the "l" was capitalized it would through off the spacing and the asthetics of the sign...Duh?! (smile)

William Levin said...

True, some occurrences of lowercase L are a result of bad planning, trying to save space by squeezing the letter in. But other times there is ample space, and the placement of the lowercase L just makes the sign confusing to read.

Terri Q said...

An Interesting Case of the REVERSE of the Lowercase "L" Phenomenon:

I enjoyed reading the blog, as I'd been searching for statistics on dysgraphia for an academic paper. (Thank you, Mr. Levin & Dr. Brigidi!)
And just this morning as I was in the process of double-checking my citations for the paper, and I was reading the blog again, it occurred to me that just a couple of nights ago, I witnessed the actual REVERSE of the lowercase l phenomenon.

I was serving as scribe on a school art project for a student who has been diagnosed with both dyslexia and dysgraphia. She is bright, witty and quite articulate, and thanks to the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction, has become an excellent reader! However, her penmanship, still lags far behind. She has not yet mastered script writing, and her print lettering style may be described as awkward and irregular (fairly typical for most dysgraphics).

As I was hand-lettering a slogan on a poster for her, she was sitting by, monitoring my progress (after all, this was for a language arts grade!). I was hand-lettering the sentence using both lower and upper case, and wrote a word ending in double-l (I don't recall right now just what that particular word was), for example "Tell." She stopped me in mid-sentence. "Oh, that's not the way I do it. I don't do my l's, that way--Here, let me do it my way." She proceeded to add the little tails that characterize capital l's. The word now looked like TeLL.

I understand that when this student was quite young, she had the strange ability to write her first name in true mirror-image, that is perfectly backwards!--including the slant of the individual letters! Could it be possible that whatever brain mechanism causes us so-called "normal" writers to mix case substituting lower-case l, also causes dyslexic writers to substitute upper case l?

Hmmm...

Thanks again for presenting such an interesting blog.

Spencer said...

Sadly, this isn't just confined to hand-written signs. There are fonts in which the upper-case L, lower-case L, and upper-case I are all the same shape; a straight vertical line.

I only notice this because I'm from Illinois, and it irks me when I see the state spelled out in that font. It looks like IIIinois. Or abbreviated, II.

Anonymous said...

I love it! As an editor I enjoy finding these oddities (case inconsistencies, crazy punctuation, etc.) in ads, signs, memos - everywhere.

I don't think it's about spacing. Check out lowercase "i" as well - also everywhere.

Fun blog!

Shefali K. said...

I have seen this thing - 'l'. As for me, I use 'L' because of its similarity with 'I' - as you said. And I conformed it with some of the chemistry charts and other charts that I made sometime back. But, I never knew that use of 'l' was so widespread.

This blog is amusing. I added you on my blogroll - http://sequesteredwords.wordpress.com/
I hope thats ok. :)

The Mighty Beluga said...

This is really great! But seriously, who has the time to add an extra line? what if the second line isn't exactly perpendicular to the first? I'd rather not take the risk...

Marc said...

This is really funny. This blog has given me another reason to believe that the rest of the world is crazy! I mean, how hard is it to add a little horizonal line at the bottom of a capital i? It never ceases to amaze me how the minutiae of simple typography is so clearly lost to most people...

Anne S said...

This does not appear to be a phenomenon in Australia where I live. I've never seen it here, I'm sure it would appear as a glaring error should I notice it.

the Finnie's said...

Found your Blog through 'Blogs of Note' and enjoyed it. I can't abide bad spelling either so I'll be on the lookout for lowercase L syndrome.

Anonymous made an interesting comment:
"I am guilty of the lower case "l". But I think the reason for it is simple....its all about the spacing. Look at all you pics...if the "l" was capitalized it would through off the spacing and the asthetics of the sign...Duh?! (smile)"
Read carefully and it's not about the spacing but his or her poor grammar and spelling!

Anonymous said...

What a stupid blog. You really have way too much time on your hands! I started to read your blog wondering what all the fuss was about, and there it was. The l versus the L?
Uhh...whatever. Can I have those 5 minutes back, please?

Editor, The Threshold said...

I find your blog fascinating – in an odd sort of way. No, the l vs. L won’t solve world hunger, nor will it start WWIII, but still, it’s worth a moment’s consideration. Perhaps it’s the artist in us that makes some people notice (or care) about this.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you are similar to me in that you have a mild case of undiagnosed OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Are you the kind of person who is bothered (not to the point of psychotic convulsions, but just…disturbed) by pictures hanging wildly askew at restaurants? Or Fortune 500 companies misspelled their advertisements? Or “customer service satisfaction awards” at car dealerships on display – upside down?

This is my kind of blog! There’s now a permanent link on mine…and I’ll be using it soon.

Thanks for taking the time! Now I have something else to obsess about… :-)

I wonder – do you care about the “its” vs. “it’s” problem too? And what about those people who refer to “you’re” as “your?”



View my blog! Visit The Threshold here: http://thethresh.blogspot.com.

tt_b said...

Anne S said she'd never seen it in Australia, and I'm in the UK and have never seen it either. Then again I haven't been looking...

I'm going to investigate this on signs over here now! Great blog.

Lasagna said...

I suppose it does bother me a bit now that you've put it under the microscope.

LESLEY said...

I would just like to say that I share the "annoyance" of writing lowercase L's...It does not only create confusion in certain cases, but it just seems awkward to write L's in this way (excepting the all-lowercase circumstance, of course). It brings out the obsessive-compulsive in me to correct all those "wayward" L's.

Starnarcosis said...

This may explain why some of my junk mail is addressed to "Ilsa" instead of "Lisa".

Norpino said...

This is probably one of the most interesting blogs that I have come across! I am thoroughly amused and I'll keep my eye out for those crazy lower case L's. (One of my pet peeves is when people mix upper case letters with lowercase letters.)

J Morgetron said...

I don't have a picture of this, but wanted to tell you about it anyway. There's this family who lives in my neighborhood and they have two ducks. One of the ducks disappeared and they put up a sign in their yard that read, "PlEASE BRING HOWARD BACK!" I thought it was so weird that the "l" was lower case. Hahaha. Your blog is funny.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing this annoyance to my attention. I'll now be on the lookout for this strange phenonmenon!

joey said...

Yay! I'm not the only person driven crazy by the lowercase "l" phenomenon. I've been noticing it my whole life and it never fails to make me cringe.

Anonymous said...

@ Will....What I'd like to know is how you typed that entire entry with all of the "l's" in lowercase. Is this a setting that you can control thru some sort of preference or do you have to manually change all of the "L's" to lowercase?

William Levin said...

Anon, when I type lowercase L's, I always do it consciously and manually.

Oregongirl82 said...

Mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation and such have always been a pet peeve for me, but I'd never much considered things like the lowercase "L" in the midst of all caps. But now that I've stumbled across this blog, I most certainly will be watching for them!

Lucille said...

I have noticed this as well but never thought to blog about it! Now I don't have to. :)

I think it is a wonderful topic, your page is fresh and interesting and I WILL BE a loyal follower and hopefully be able to send you some offender photos as well!

Keep up the great work!

snowboard-addict said...

From reading your blog, I know that your from the USA, but in England (where im from) we have a completely different problem. when I was taught to write, and its something that stuck, a capital L looked like that, but a lowercase l looked like a curvy L. As in, it had a curve at the bottom (and so was still one line) but had the horizontal line at the bottom. But another thing I was taught, is joined up writing, where the same principle applies, but the lowercase has more curves.

But the blog, well it kept me interested for a long time!!

Anonymous said...

what about uppercase a

maiwald said...

never noticed this in germany but what i've noticed is the dot over uppercase "i"s... anyway, have a good one

Anonymous said...

I came across this blog and immediately thought of Adobe Lllustrator -- A similar problem that has always bugged me.

Manuel M said...

I think i pay a high amount of attention in my everyday life to all things that has to do with typography, but i never found this being an issue in Germany either.


Would love to see more “local reports” here!

Denise said...

Thanks for the great blog!

Due to being a *NIX person for over 20 years, and starting with vi way before Windows came about, handwriting program code onto paper to give to someone else has always been troubling. Especially with the American way of not writing clearly. One of the tricks we do is to make the "l" cursive when printing. That differs it from the number one or the letter "i".

So, the printed word "little" would have the el's in cursive. This made password's that weren't dictionary words, easily readable.

I only still only print, but my el's are still cursive to make sure everyone knows I mean "l" and not one or "i".

I know my friends think I am weird ;-)

Anonymous said...

This is too funny. Thanks for giving me yet another typographic tragedy to obsess over. I think.

Roger Green said...

Yeah, but what are you doing about the its/it's travesty?!

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I've never noticed this here in the UK. Perhaps it's a US thing? I'll keep an eye out for it!

Actual Kraken said...

I scroll through these photos with my mouth open in utter disbelief. I have always been absolutely fascinated by deliberate mistakes such as these, when people have obviously put time and effort into planning and creating something that is fundamentally flawed.

For example, there is a restaurant near me that read, in FULLY INDEPENDENT LARGE ILLUMINATED LETTERS "Family Dinning". I swear to God I am not making that up. Think of all the people involved in the process of ordering, planning and installing large signage like that... And not ONE realized the extra "D"?

Anyway, thanks for the stimulating diversion.

m said...

This has been driving me crazy ever since 7th grade, when I was perplexed by the sign in my school's art department telling students to "PUT THE CIAY AWAY WHEN YOU'RE DONE WITH IT".

It's particularly bewildering when people do this when typing, stenciling, typesetting, etc.

A few years ago I decided to start photographing this phenomenon. I call my collection "CAPITAI I" and I have over 100 photos.

Now instead of getting frustrated and perplexed when I see these signs, it makes me happy — happy that I can add another photo to my collection.

Thanks for your blog. I knew there had to be someone else out there that was noticing this. I decided to Google it today and found this blog fairly easily. But I am a little disappointed that the Blogger site uses a font that has a little tail on its lower case L. Perhaps you could type a capital i when you're giving examples instead of a lowercase L.

When I get a chance I will upload some of my photos.

Thanks!

Susanna said...

Thank you for letting me know there is a support group available for people who get annoyed by lower case l. I am married to a repeat offender!
Today someone else called to tell him he had spelling errors in a page he scanned & emailed; he couldn't find the spelling error. I took one look at it and there were about six little l's hiding in all the capital letters.
A vindication of sorts, for me.