Seeking Words of Wisdom

Beatles fans and Wikipedia editors have collided over the issue of whether to capitalize “the” as in “The Beatles.” It’s a touchy subject involving plenty of online screeds and tirades.

As Saabira Chaudhuri recently noted in the Wall Street Journal,

For some eight years, editors at the online encyclopedia have been debating whether the article “the” should be uppercased when referring to the band. Is it “the” Beatles or “The” Beatles?

The lowercase faction says the Wikipedia manual of style and external style guides are on its side.

The uppercase faction says that trademarks should be capitalized and that the official Beatles website uses an uppercase definite article.

The dispute has become so contentious that some Wikipedia editors have been banned from participating. “Discussions on this page may escalate into heated debate,” warns the internal “Talk” page where editors discuss changes to the Beatles entry.

“Please try to keep a cool head when commenting here.”

Like the Journal, I’m on the lowercase side, and apparently a letter written by John Lennon supports this position. Chaudhuri quotes Gabriel McFadden, a major lowercase proponent, as saying Lennon “would have a good laugh at all the ‘fans’ who think that a lowercase ‘t’ is somehow a disgrace to the band.” (McFadden chooses not to make his location known to WSJ, however, because he says he’s being cyberstalked.)

Incidentally, neither Paul nor Ringo have weighed in.

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