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The American Epidemic

Slang, the Lost Art of Good Penmanship, Random Capitalization Disease, and Three-Letter Acronyms

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime over the past few years, Americans have been overwhelmed by an epidemic. Yes, I am speaking of slang, the lost art of good penmanship, random capitalization of words in sentences (let’s call this RCD: Random Capitalization Disease) and the overuse of three-letter acronyms.

Verbs that are exclusively verbs are being used as nouns. If you don’t believe me, look no farther than a news broadcast where your attention is being directed to an audio clip. You will be told by the anchor to “take a listen.” The opposite is also true. Nouns are now commonly used as verbs. Recently I was watching TV and an ad claimed that the company “peopled better.” If this weren’t so sad, it would be laughable. I imagine these intentional misuses of words are considered slang. I first noticed this in professional basketball broadcasts when the announcer proclaimed that the player really knew how to “score the basketball.” I was dumbfounded. A basketball player can score points by placing the ball through the rim, but under no circumstances can they “score the basketball.” Baseball announcers are now routinely telling fans that a player “went yard.” This, of course, means the player hit a home run. I mean, it’s obvious, right? Good grief! Give me a break.

The now common act of thumb dancing across digital devices has obliterated our ability to write cursive. When I was a kid, we were made to write letters and sentences in cursive until our hands were ready to fall off. If it wasn't legible, you had to do it over. Today, people cannot write their own name legibly.

When they stopped teaching kids cursive, did they also abandon the basic rules for capitalization? Way back in the 1960's and ’70's when I was in elementary school, we learned to capitalize the first word of a sentence, someone’s name, or the name of a place. Apparently, in the ensuing fifty years, the wheels have simply come off the bus. RCD is witnessed everywhere. It shows up prominently in multimedia advertising, emails, signs, internet articles, and even in the flood of self-published books on today’s market. It just drives me nuts. To help get everyone back on the right track, here are the basic rules for capitalization as defined by

Let’s see if we can Cure America of RCD . . . before it’s too Late. Oh no, where’s the antidote?

Before I close, I must address our newfound proclivity for acronyms. Every business seems to have abandoned their real identity for an acronym. If the Smith Ladder Company all of the sudden becomes SLC, how do would-be customers know what they sell? Most industries have their own set of acronyms, which is understandable and perfectly acceptable . . . if you work in that industry. The problem ensues when people start speaking to others with their industry acronyms. They may as well be speaking a foreign language. I can’t complain too much. I love acronyms. In fact, I have a favorite: TLA. You guessed it! It’s a three-letter acronym for three-letter acronyms.

Sam Polakoff is the author of the science-fiction thrillers Hiatus and Shaman. Sam has penned numerous blogs and articles for various publications in the supply chain sector. He is the author of the 2007 children’s book A Christmas Tale and the owner of Nexterus Inc., a supply chain engineering and technology firm based in New Freedom, Pennsylvania. Visit Sam’s author website at

Kim Bookless assisted in the editing of this blog.

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