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Studly caps, also known as alternating caps, is a form of text notation in which the capitalization of letters varies by some pattern, or arbitrarily (often also omitting spaces between words and occasionally some letters), such as StUdLyCaPs or sTuDLycApS. It is typically used to convey a mocking tone.
According to the Jargon File, the origin and significance of the practice is obscure. Arbitrary variation found popularity among adolescent users during the BBS and early WWW eras of online culture, as if in parody of the marginally less idiosyncratic capitalization found in common trade and service marks of the time. Programming style guides, meanwhile, began to codify common studly caps patterns for computer programmer populations, who are constrained by rules on the placement of whitespace that are incompatible with natural-language usage.
Unlike the use of all-lowercase letters, which suggests efficiency as a motivation, studly caps requires additional effort to type, either by holding and releasing the shift key with one hand while hunting-and-pecking, or by intermittently pressing one shift key or the other while touch typing.
This method (without actually being named "studly caps") was extensively used since the 1980s in the BBS-world and warez scene (for example in FILE_ID.DIZ and .nfo files) to show "elite" (or elitist) attitude, the often used variant was using small-caps vowels and capitalised consonants (THiS iS aN eXCePTioNaLLy eLiTe SeNTeNCe.) or reversed capitals (eXTENDED kEY gNERERATOR pRO). The iNiQUiTY BBS software based on Renegade had a feature to support two variants of this automatically: either all vowels would be uppercase or all vowels would be lowercase, with the consonants as the other case.
Messages may be hidden in the capital and lower-case letters such as "ShoEboX" which spells "SEX" in capitals and "hobo" in lower-case. The webmail service Hotmail was originally stylized as HoTMaiL, which spells HTML in upper-case.
A meme known as "Mocking SpongeBob" popularized using alternating caps to convey a mocking tone starting in May 2017, leading to alternating caps becoming a mainstream method of conveying mockery in text.
- Galluci, Nicole (19 June 2019). "A look at the Ubiquitous Habit of capitalizing letters to make A Point". Mashable. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- "studlycaps". The Jargon File, version 4.4.7. 29 Dec 2003. Retrieved 12 Jun 2009.
- http://www.iniquitybbs.com/docs/iniquity.docs.html[permanent dead link]
- Hathaway, Jay (May 9, 2017). "'Mocking Spongebob' is the most insulting meme of 2017". The Daily Dot. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
- Madison Malone Kircher (17 May 2017). "WhAt Is Up WiTh ThAt WeIrD, NeW SpOnGeBoB MeMe?". NYMag. Retrieved 6 May 2020.