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Why Do We Capitalize “I”?

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Capital "I" image via Shutterstock

Some languages capitalize several of their pronouns. Some don’t capitalize any of them. English is an odd duck in that we only capitalize the first person singular, I.

Why? Honestly, we're not sure. Linguists and historians have been unable to find any record of a definitive explanation. We know this much: In Old and early Middle English, the German-flavored ich was used as the personal pronoun. Around the middle period of Middle English, personal pronouns proliferated and Ich, ich, Ic, ic, I and i were all used in writing with varying frequency. By the end of the Middle English period, I stood alone, tall and triumphant. The ch was dropped in one of the major phonetic changes that English experienced during these years, but the reason the solo i suddenly got the capital treatment is less clear. Here are some of the explanations scholars have proposed:

Capitalization might have been a linguistic concern. When I appears, it’s frequently the subject of the sentence, and may have gotten capitalized to denote its importance in a statement.
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In a similar vein, capitalization might be psychological, affirming the importance not of the subject, but of the writer. I can confirm that we writers can be a self-obsessed bunch sometimes, but I can’t speak to the egotism of the scribes of the Middle Ages without a time machine. One problem with this hypothesis is that, if you’re going to capitalize I out of ego, why not do the same to every appearance of “me”?
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Another explanation is that the capital I had less to do with language and more to do with the practicalities of handwriting. The lower case i looks a little weak on its own. Some historians - including Charles Bigelow, a type historian and designer of the Lucida and Wingdings font families - think that an i all by itself would have become illegible after multiple handlings and readings of a manuscript, and scribes had to make the pronoun graphically sturdier to stand the tests of time and smudging hands.

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What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
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  • Be bioequivalent
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  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

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