You can shop at here on the corner in Tempe, grab a bite to eat at elements restaurant in Paradise Valley and get a new hairstyle at lale salon in Scottsdale — but only if you’re not too particular about grammar.
More and more local businesses have done away with capitalization, a fad one expert referred to as "stylistic cool."
"(They) try to look ‘with it’ by doing this," wrote ASU English professor Elly van Gelderen, who, incidentally, began her
e-mail with a very chic "hi."
In their attempts to explain the trend, literature-savvy professors invariably refer to 20th-century American poet ee cummings, or the more recent crowd of feminist writers who refuse to capitalize their names.
"Maybe no capitals makes a name look more poetic? Is this something to do with not privileging any of the parts of one’s name? Is it a radical lesbian statement? I’m not really sure," said Sally Jacoby, associate professor of interpersonal communication at the University of New Hampshire.
Linguistic pros, on the other hand, attribute the increased use of lowercase letters to modern communication tools, like e-mail and instant messaging; A carefully composed "Dear Jane" has become a hastily typed "hey jane." And the corporate world has taken notice.
"Companies wanting to market to the hip, younger generation have borrowed some of the obvious innovations from online chat shorthand — such as lack of capitalization — to pander to a cool youthful demographic," said Heather Lotherington, associate professor of multilingual education at York University in Toronto.
But East Valley entrepreneurs and graphic designers say the decision to go lowercase isn’t about a famous poet or modern language.
Valerie Moreno, art director for Metro magazine in Scottsdale, said it was the "not so traditional" appearance of lowercase letters that moved them to do away with a capital "m" on the magazine’s cover.
Said Lisa Bayne, co-owner of here on the corner: "The reasons are purely aesthetic. It looked smoother, rounder, softer, than a capital letter ‘h’ in the beginning."
Chuck Wiley, executive chef at Sanctuary on Camelback, had similar motives when choosing elements restaurant over Elements Restaurant.
"When we put a capital ‘e’ with it, it didn’t look good. That really dictated our use of lowercase for everything."
And when Wiley says everything, he is not kidding: Even Arizona is reduced to arizona on elements’ menu. The restaurant has never received a complaint.
But, in the event that a winemaker or state councilman does protest, Wiley said he would be "very sensitive to it." Or, rather, case-sensitive.