Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Concerning Spelling

Even for a secular Jew like me, this time of year instills thoughts of charity, generosity, and general hot-chocolate-by-roaring-fire good will toward men (and women). But sometimes even a peace-loving man can be so rankled by persistent injustice that the seratonin-augmenting properties of the holiday season fail to quell his righteous anger. So let me just lay it out there: The Capitol [sic] Region Council Of Governments needs to correct the spelling error in its name.

Now, don't get me wrong: I am a huge fan of the CRCOG. They're always working with the CCBA to advance bike-friendly initiatives in our area, and they do lots of other good stuff. I am also a big fan of regionalism generally since, as I have mentioned before, my secret dream is for Connecticut to have county-based school districts. (Will this ever happen? No, it will not.) But damn it all, I am not a fan of writing "Capitol" when you mean "Capital," and I find it unpardonable that this error is perpetuated right there in the organization's name!

You see, a "capitol" is a building where a legislature sits. You know, like that big, gold-domed edifice on Capitol Avenue, pictured above. (No, not Kenny's. That's a bar, and it doesn't even have a dome. Up the street from there, by the park.) A "capital" is the administrative seat of a political subdivision. Many capitals have capitols in them, and Hartford is among these, so I can understand the confusion (CRCOG, by the way, is not the only organization to make this error), but I think that if you want to talk about the towns surrounding the state capital, you want to refer to the Capital Region. (I mean, I guess you could argue that Glastonbury and East Hartford and Avon are in the region of a particular building, but they're equally in the region of Blue Back Square, and I don't see them calling the organization BBSRCOG, you know what I mean?) So what gives?

Well, I don't like to take my petty grievances directly to the internet, so when this problem first came to my attention, I sent CRCOG an e-mail, which I have reproduced below:

To whom it may concern:

Why is it Capitol Region and not Capital Region? Capitol, if I understand correctly, refers to a building where a legislature sits, while capital refers to the administrative seat of a political subdivision. I browsed your website to see if there was an answer, but found nothing. Is it just an oversight not worth correcting, or is there some historical or aesthetic reason CRCOG associates its region with the building rather than the city?

Respectfully, I remain,

Josh Michtom
West Hartford

When I was ten years old, I sent a similarly polite letter to General Mills, taking issue with the slogan of Kix Cereal, "Kid Tested; Mother Approved," because it was sexist, pointing out that I was being raised by my father and my mother had no say in my cereal choices (I am not alone in feeling this way). General Mills didn't change the slogan, but they did send me a very nice letter thanking me for my patronage, claiming to understand my concern, and attempting to persuade me of the acceptability of their slogan on the basis of some inscrutable market polling data. Also, they sent me coupons for two free boxes of any General Mills cereal. TWO FREE BOXES. That my friends, is the tenor of civil discourse I would like to see when I contact an organization to voice linguistic concerns in a friendly way. But not only has CRCOG failed to provide me with coupons of any kind, they have not even dignified my convivial missive with a response!

So what do you have to say for yourself, CRCOG? I want to love you for all the good things you do, but with the slipshod usage in your title you have insulted my intelligence, and with your failure to respond to my e-mail, YOU HAVE INSULTED MY HONOR.


B L A N C A said...

Yes, you're right. But maybe there is some registered use of "capital" and perhaps "capitol" doesn't infringe on trade mark.

I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Plus you know how expensive it is to change stationary?
heehee- Just pushing your prescriptive orthography buttons! it's stationEry!

El Presidente de China said...

First of all, when you call it "prescriptive," you derogate what is, at heart, a love of language. I'm not from the dangling-prepositions-are-something-up-with-which-I-will-not-put school of grammar totalitarianism, but I think that like the best modern painters, we should master the old forms and rules before we break them. Also, I don't think it's a question of trademark - in all of the CRCOG newsletters, they refer to the "Capitol region" in sentences, even when they're not talking about the organization. And really, the point is that they should have responded to my e-mail, feel me?

BI4NC4 said...

i feel you bro. I get miffed when my Senator responds to be like 2 months later with some generic letter that isn't exactly what I wrote to complain about. But at least that is a response.

Brendan said...

CRCOG has office space on Main St. in Hartford, which is near the capitol. In Hartford, we may call the area near the capitol the capitol region. Perhaps it's only a coincidence that all the member towns are in the capital region. In fact, it could be the member towns who are in the wrong by choosing CRCOG thinking that its name referred to the capital region, but CRCOG could be a council of governments that happens to be in the capitol region, but actually wanted its governments to be from Virginia.

El Presidente de China said...

Brendan, I like the way you think. Also, you are crazy.

chillwill said...

y'all are both crazy...

so everyone in CRCOG was relocated here from Virginia? whooaaaaa. they must be hatin' this weather!

Rich said...

If the CRCOG has office space on Main St. in Hartford, there can be one course of action. ON-SITE GRAMMATICAL PROTEST. Organize and march on the CRCOG until this injustice has been corrected, or at least acknowledged.


Anonymous said...

maybe they figured thy were covered by using capital letters in the acronym?

El Presidente de China said...

Well played, Anonymous. Well played.

Anonymous said...

Quoth my boss, "CRCOG’s founders set the name up that way and no one since has wanted to make the effort to change it – letterheads, business cards, contracts, intergovernmental agreements, grants, etc. – so they joke about it from time to time and that’s it."