This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series BDSM capitalization
  • Playing the Grammar Police

a grammar policeman speaks

grammar police say shift key is not respectI’m putting on my grammar police uniform today, addressing a pet peeve of mine –  some call it “BDSM capitalization” or “slave-pidgin”, but to my eyes it’s just deliberately butchered grammar.   In keeping with that role, as your friendly grammar policeman, I have to issue a stern warning.  If you insist on continuing, I’ll get out my ticket book and start writing citations.  Deliberately butchering our language really should be a crime.

I’m sure you all know some poor unfortunate soul who believes that butchering the English language is standard protocol in the BDSM community. You know who I mean, they are the folks who would write this opening and have it look much different.  Under their protocols, the opening paragraph might instead look something like this:

i’m sure Y/you A/all know some poor unfortunate soul W/who believes that butchering the English language is standard protocol in the BDSM C/community. Y/you know W/who i mean, T/they are the F/folks W/who would write this opening and have it look much different.

I have good friends that write that way. I love those folks dearly, but the way they write – it drives me crazy!  The deliberately butchered syntax makes me morph into the grammar police. Their writing style not only makes my eyes hurt, it’s not doing my brain any favors either.

P/please S/save U/us A/all F/from T/this.

Many on the Internet suffer from a severe lack of historical knowledge. I will admit that you can find websites advocating a submissive ‘s use of the lower case, but that does not give it historical or even cultural reality.
~ Jack Rinella

Please realize that writing using “BDSM grammar” isn’t a sign of respect. It doesn’t respect dominants, it doesn’t respect the community, and it certainly doesn’t respect the English language. There’s no doubt, it does not respect readability either, instead it displays apparent ignorance. At best, it reads as though you are stuttering, at worst, well it’s pretty much unreadable.

If you think you are using such atrocious grammar out of respect to some long-held BDSM tradition, you are wrong yet again. Unless, that is, you somehow think a “long-held tradition” is one dating back to the earlier days of mIRC or AOL chat.  I’m not saying this to upset anyone, I certainly don’t want any of my friends to be offended, that is not my purpose. If your kink is a strange grammatical fetish, I’m not going to remove you from my friends list, or do anything drastic. I don’t like you any less because of how you write.

And, I’m guessing you write like that because you’ve been taught the ‘rule” by some other poor ignorant bastard who didn’t know any better themselves. This isn’t about making them feel bad either.  No, this essay is an attempt at education. I’m guessing you use the odd capitalization rules because you think it will help you be taken more seriously within the community.

Sadly, the exact opposite is true. Butchering the English language out of respect to some misguided internet chat protocol is kind of like walking around with a booger hanging from your nose and something caught between your teeth.  Some folks think it’s polite to ignore the predicament, not wishing to cause further embarrassment. I’m the kind of guy who prefers to point out the problem, thinking that the brief embarrassment of correcting the issue now is far preferable to letting that booger buddy stick around all night.

So, please, wipe your nose . . . . and cut the capitalization crap too. You really do look better without it!


For the record, I’m not alone in having this particular pet peeve.  Author Jack Rinella wrote about the problem more than a decade ago in an essay titled Slavese And Other Crap.  He gets right to the heart of the matter by saying:

For those who have not yet run into “slavese” it is the use of capitalization and pronouns to indicate one’s dominant or submissive status. Based on the protocols of a very few, it has taken on the aura of”Old Guard” validation. Slaves in this situation are forbidden to use the pronoun “I” or if they do, it must be in lower case. Some of this protocol, for instance, means that a slave would ask his or her master something like “Sir, would you like your slave to use the rest room now, Sir?” therefore avoiding the use of I.

There are many ways to debunk this Old Guard myth, much of which has to do with debunking the myth of the Old Guard itself. First of all, it’s necessary to reflect on who was the Old Guard, since in fact each of the three major historical BDSM groups had different predecessors. The most strict of the Old Guard protocols, as far as I can see, would have been held not by Gay Leathermen but by the elite heterosexual community generally led by professional dominatrices. A slave applicant in this situation was given his or her list of rules in the form of a copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, originally published in 1922 by Funk & Wagnalls. One can quickly understand that Mrs. Post would never allow such a breech of etiquette as to bastardize our language.

Rinella’s always a good read, and he’s spot-on for this topic.  His point that there are multiple “old guard” predecessors to the current scene is particularly well taken. With that said, I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole on the old Guard debate, at least not here.  That’s another topic for a different time.

bee-dee-es-em kap-i-tl-uh-zey-shuhn

If Rinella’s opinion, not to mention my own thoughts, aren’t enough to convince you on this topic, there are a number of others I could quote.  My favorite take on the topic comes from the Dumb Domme blog.  Her BDSM Lexicon Entry #23: BDSM capitalization expresses her thinking on slave-pidgin with witty hilarity.

Use of D/s capitalization is supposed to show respect or some such shit. Because, really, nothing says respect like hitting the shift key while typing ‘y.’ No, really. doMInAnT bitches love the shift key. Nothing makes a DOmInANt feel loved, appreciated, and respected like the fucking shift key.

Besides a show of respect, using D/s capitalization is supposed to help people reinforce their roles and their partner’s roles. Because… you know, the SHIFT KEY!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dumb Domme’s post on the topic was the inspiration for the graphic Serafina created to go with this post.  Her writing is a relatively recent addition to my reading list, but she’s become a regular pleasure here.  I’m still pouring over Dumb Domme’s writing, but it’s a good bet she’ll be mentioned again here at the Joy of Kink.

Michael's Musings Playing the Grammar Police
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