Let’s talk camel case! What?? You’ve never heard of camel case? How about medial capitals? Bumpy case? Intercapping? Mixed case? Embedded caps? Leading caps? Nerd caps? Headless camel case? Not ringing a bell? Oh alright, let’s take it from the beginning.
Blame the Scots
Ok so medial capitals have probably been around longer than the Scots, but we have to start somewhere. A lot of Scottish — and Irish and German — last names begin with “Son of.” Lots of history happening here, and this was eventually abbreviated as Mc or Mac then shoved right up against the rest of the surname. (The German version is Fitz.) There’s a capital at the beginning of the word and a capital in the middle. Thus, it’s a medial capital.
He blinded me with medial capitals.
The medial capital didn’t really escape last names until the early 1800s. The Swedish chemist Berzelius proposed replacing all the long form names and symbols for the elements with a symbol of one or two letters. Instead of sodium chloride, scientists could abbreviate with NaCl. We still use his system today.
What was your name again?
Camel case is probably more popular now than ever before with advertisers. Why? Because it’s memorable. Some of the early adopters include McDonald’s, MasterCard, TriStar Pictures, and the old IBM ThinkPad. Today, they’re everywhere — TiVo, eBay, MySpace, YouTube, PowerPoint, and PayPal. Some brands have even altered their name to incorporate camel case. Federal Express has morphed into just FedEx. Radio Shack became RadioShack — and may be on its way to just “the Shack.” PetSmart used to be PETsMART.
What exactly is headless camel case?
iPhone, iMac, iTunes, iPad — catching on yet? Maybe headless camel case should just be referred to as Mac case.
When is it proper to use camel case?
According to Grammar Girl, if your writing includes a company or last name that incorporates camel case — honor the spelling and use it. If you’re a creative, it’s definitely something to consider when brainstorming a new name for a product or brand. Beyond branding, names, scientific applications, and computer programming, we really don’t see camel case — yet. I say yet because language is constantly evolving. Google is a brand and a verb. Webster’s just officially added OMG!, LOL, and FYI to the dictionary. It could be a matter of time before camel case finds its way into everyday writing.

One thought on “The rise of camel case

  1. Thanks for this article. I’ve just been trying to explain the legitimacy of CamelCase in a B2B environment, and the list of adopters was very helpful.

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