American Go E-Journal

Your Move/Readers Write: More thoughts on Go vs. go

Sunday September 16, 2018

Avoiding grammatical confusion: “While the style sheet (Your Move/Readers Write: Go or go? 8/20 EJ) may be consistent and logical,” writes former EJ editor Terry Benson, “the reason I continue to capitalize Go and have (most of the time) for nearly 50 years is to distinguish it from the verb and grammatical confusion. Chess, checkers, and backgammon don’t have that problem… or the many puns on the name of our game.”

Makes sense but maybe not sensible: “That public domain games like chess, poker, and backgammon are not capitalized, and therefore Go should not be capitalized either, makes sense,” writes Janice Kim. “Identifying Go as public domain, however, seems less important than identifying it as a game. It may be a specific, overarching concern when the word ‘go’ is in the top 20% of words used in English, has dozens of definitions as different parts of speech, and is used to signify the game only by a small portion of the people who play that game. In the meantime, a look at Merriam Webster online indicates that Go the game is often capitalized, and Wikipedia capitalizes it. These aren’t the definitive guides to proper grammar, but it’s indicative of how widespread and accepted it is to capitalize the word ‘Go’ when referring to the game. Luckily in this case the ease of specifying what one is referring to, is not come by an uncomfortable practice such as using male pronouns arbitrarily or exclusively. It’s nice that we have a word, Go, that can be used universally to signify the game. It makes sense that the E-Journal chooses not to capitalize it, but we can assume that there is little ambiguity for average readers of the E-Journal. Meanwhile, people will probably be capitalizing it in other places, not until Go reaches household popularity with consistent agreed-on grammar usage, but as long as there is a word ‘go’ that means something else.”

Logical but lacks clarity: “In the ‘go’ vs. ‘Go’ debate logic is on the side of the E-Journal’s position in favor of the lower-case spelling,” writes Fred Baldwin. “The name of our favorite board game is a common noun like ‘chess’ and ‘poker,’ not like ‘Risk’ or ‘Monopoly.’ Unfortunately, ‘go’ as a noun is easily confused with one of the most commonly used verbs in English. We should avoid any typographical convention that makes a sentence, a headline or a poster unnecessarily difficult for a reader to understand without having to make extra effort. So I favor ‘Go’ on the grounds that writers and editors should not hesitate to break rules for the sake of clarity. Apparently, the New Yorker, a magazine known for its attention to clear writing, agrees. As a distinguished U.S. jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., once wrote: ‘A page of history is worth a volume of logic.’ Or, as a not especially distinguished U.S. Senator once said: ‘Sometimes a man has to rise above principle.’”