In 1986, I arrived at Swarthmore, and I started using email.
(Obligatory irrelevant “back in my day”: in those days, you had to explicitly specify the whole path that the message would take, from one computer to another, hopping through the network to its destination.)
For no particular reason (or if there was a good reason, it's lost in the mists of time), I decided to sign my name to emails in lowercase, thus:
And over the years, whim became habit became tradition, as so often happens. I've been signing my name this way to emails the whole time I've been using email, rarely thinking twice about it.
(It's possible that I didn't actually start signing that way in 1986. But I had definitely started by April of 1987 (the earliest email I have easy access to offhand), and I think I started when I first started using email. Possibly even earlier, in BBSes in high school; not sure.)
But in the past couple of months, I've had a couple of email exchanges with people who don't know me in which they've referred to me as “jed” in all lowercase. Which made me realize that signing my name this way makes it look like that's how I want to be addressed.
Whereas in fact I don't think of my name as starting with a lowercase j, and I don't use the lowercase in any context other than signing messages.
And I don't even always use lowercase for signing messages: my rejection letters use a capital J, because the editor's name is added automatically by the system, and it seemed silly to write special code to put my name in lowercase when all the other editors (and First Readers) use standard capitalization.
The other day, I was talking with Michael about TextExpander, a Mac utility that expands abbreviations into longer pieces of text. And we discussed the fact that TE also works to correct typos; for example, I have it set up so that when I type “tot he,” it immediately changes to “to the.”
And I was also thinking and/or talking about possibly changing my signature to use a capital J, but lamenting the difficulty of remembering to do something differently after all these years of doing it the same way.
And either Michael pointed out or I realized, I forget which, that TextExpander could solve that problem.
And so now, whenever I type my signature, TE changes the lowercase j to a capital J.
It's disconcerting. I'm not sure I like it. But the lowercase version is beginning to feel more and more like an affectation serving no good purpose. So I'm gonna go with the capital J for a while and see how I like it. If I get used to it, I may stick with it.
One thing that surprises me about all this is that I don't remember anyone ever commenting on the lowercase or asking me about it or interpreting it as meaning that's how I normally spell my name, until sometime in the past couple months. I may just be not remembering other instances, though.