Capitis Diminutio Maxima (Name in ALL CAPITALS)
For purposes of understanding one's legal or commercial status under the Admiralty system (the law system used in England, Canada and much of the US), it is necessary to examine the curious use of all CAPS -Capitis Diminutio Maxima- in legal and domestic income tax forms, credit cards & statements, loans, mortgages, speeding & parking tickets, car documents, road tax, court summons etc. While seemingly a trite concern, this apparently small detail has extremely deep significance for all of us!
Gage Canadian Dictionary 1983 Sec. 4 defines Capitalize adj. as "To take advantage of - To use to ones own advantage."
Blacks Law Dictionary – Revised 4th Edition 1968, provides a more comprehensive definition as follows …
Capitis Diminutio (meaning the diminishing of status through the use of capitalization) In Roman law. A diminishing or abridgment of personality; a loss or curtailment of a man's status or aggregate of legal attributes and qualifications.
Capitis Diminutio Minima (meaning a minimum loss of status through the use of capitalization, e.g. John Doe) - The lowest or least comprehensive degree of loss of status. This occurred where a man's family relations alone were changed. It happened upon the arrogation [pride] of a person who had been his own master, (sui juris,) [of his own right, not under any legal disability] or upon the emancipation of one who had been under the patria potestas. [Parental authority] It left the rights of liberty and citizenship unaltered. See Inst. 1, 16, pr.; 1, 2, 3; Dig. 4, 5, 11; Mackeld. Rom.Law, 144.
Capitis Diminutio Media (meaning a medium loss of status through the use of capitalization, e.g. John DOE) - A lessor or medium loss of status. This occurred where a man loses his rights of citizenship, but without losing his liberty. It carried away also the family rights.
Capitis Diminutio Maxima (meaning a maximum loss of status through the use of capitalization, e.g. JOHN DOE or DOE JOHN) - The highest or most comprehensive loss of status. This occurred when a man's condition was changed from one of freedom to one of bondage, when he became a slave. It swept away with it all rights of citizenship and all family rights.
Diminutio. Lat. In civil law. Diminution; a taking away; loss or deprivation.
Capite. - Lat. By the head.
As Black's Law Dictionary explains, the full capitalization of the letters of one's natural name results in a diminishing or complete loss of legal or citizenship status, wherein one actually becomes a slave or an item of inventory.
The reliance on haphazard sources like Black's Law Dictionary – Revised 4th Edition 1968 - is typical. Though I'd take a hundred to one for any money that the words "(meaning the diminishing of status through the use of capitalization)" aren't actually in Black.
I suppose we can only be glad that they didn't hear about decapitation. Or capital punishment. Or the capital, or Das Kapital, come to that.