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#177092 - 05/22/08 10:18 AM Capitalize?
tressups Offline
stranger

Registered: 05/22/08
Posts: 2
I receive the word a day, and this week and last they have all been eponyms. When the word is demonstrated in a sentence I notice that sometimes it is capitalized and sometimes it is not. If the words originate from proper names it makes sense that you would capitalize it, but it does not seem to be consistent. Can anyone shed any light on this? Is there a standard?

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#177093 - 05/22/08 12:41 PM Re: Capitalize? [Re: tressups]
tsuwm Online   confused
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10514
Loc: this too shall pass
not really a standard, but it seems that the caps tend to disappear as usage widens.

James Kilpatrick once waxed (nearly) a column's worth on the subject:

Oct 13, 1996

The Court of Peeves, Irks & Crotchets resumes its autumn assizes with a petition from William H. Painter of Las Vegas. He asks a declaratory ruling on the capitalization of eponyms. With deference to Painter, a favorite correspondent, the court declines.

An eponym is a word derived from someone's name. For example, the adjective "herculean" derives from the mighty Hercules of Greek and Roman myth. The question put to the court is, should "herculean" be capitalized? To which the court replies, It depends. Depends on what? Depends on which dictionary you're using today.

Merriam-Webster uppercases "herculean." Random House likes "herculean" down. Merriam-Webster lowercases "stoic." Random House likes it up. It's "Stygian" darkness at Random House, "stygian" darkness at Webster's.

The court can discover no bright-line rule. The mythic "Gordian" knot, named for the peasant king of Phrygia, is always capitalized.

But if we are to capitalize Gordian, why do we lowercase "draconian"? The word derives from Draco, the severe Athenian lawmaker.

As a general proposition, eponymous plant names are down. It's wistaria, named for Caspar Wistar, and amaryllis, named for one of Virgil's shepherd maidens. Semiprecious stones follow the same pattern. It's amazonite and rhinestone, named for the rivers. The element titanium, named for the Greek giant, is down; so is neptunium, named after the mythical god of the seas.

Painter offers as Exhibit A an abbreviated list of eponyms that begins with Achilles' heel and Alzheimer's disease and runs on through Gila monster and Ponzi scheme, to quisling and voltage. There must be hundreds of capitalized eponyms: Adam's apple, Molotov cocktail, Heimlich maneuver, Maginot line, Gatling gun, Richter scale. There must be hundreds of lowercased ones as well: guillotine, silhouette, pompadour, lesbian, chauvinism, poinsettia, galvanize and balkanize. The list runs on.

The court surmises that some sedulous scholar has attempted to compile a whole glossary of eponyms. Perhaps the author has propounded a stylistic rule on capitalization. The court would be grateful for any advice it can get.

On to other cases on the docket: Carolyn Balthaser of Columbus, Ohio, asks for a simple ruling on "if I were" and "if I was." There is nothing simple about the subjunctive mood; it is dying of its own arcane complexity. This is as simple as the court can get: Use "were" for wishes and for conditions contrary to fact: I wish I were in Scotland tonight. If I were a magician I would turn marbles into diamonds. Otherwise, stick to the dear old indicative.

William Weigl of Troy, Ohio, petitions the court for a ruling on "exact same," as in "Dole said the exact same thing two years ago." The phrase is a redundancy, no doubt about it. In their Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, William and Mary Morris say flatly that the "exact" should be deleted.

The court disagrees. Redundancies have something in common with cholesterol. There are redundancies good and redundancies bad, and "exact same" falls in the harmless class. The intensifying "exact" adds weight and emphasis to "same," and thus raises an otherwise pedestrian sentence ("Dole said the same thing two years ago") to a level that catches a reader's eye.


(I include the entirety of this column, leaving some basis for contextual judgment on the ravings of Mr. Kilpatrick.)

edit: I found someone (who shall doubtless remain uneponymized) who blogged, "I think the actual guideline to follow here is that we capitalize eponyms only if they are adjectives. Once they become nouns, we quickly stop capitalizing them." I think this naught but a very rash generalization, based on a very limited sample that probably has more to do with (again) longevity of use.)


Edited by tsuwm (05/22/08 12:54 PM)

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#177098 - 05/22/08 03:32 PM Re: Capitalize? [Re: tsuwm]
tressups Offline
stranger

Registered: 05/22/08
Posts: 2
Thank you to Carpal Tunnel. You have more than answered the question!

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#187451 - 10/26/09 03:21 PM Re: Capitalize? [Re: tressups]
Debra Lee Offline
stranger

Registered: 10/26/09
Posts: 1
I believe the rule is that if you change a proper noun it ceases to be a proper noun and therefore it is not capitalized. Therefore, "the Jones method" would be correct but "the Jonesian method" would not. You will see violations of this rule everywhere, and it may change due to usage if it hasn't already.

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#191470 - 06/08/10 03:18 AM Re: Capitalize? [Re: tressups]
Nensi Offline
stranger

Registered: 06/08/10
Posts: 1
It seems good to me just keep it
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#191476 - 06/08/10 12:54 PM Re: Capitalize? [Re: Nensi]
LukeJavan8 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 6314
Loc: Land of the Flat Water
You found an old thread to comment upon.
Welcome.
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#191530 - 06/13/10 09:36 AM Re: Capitalize? [Re: LukeJavan8]
Chuckledore Offline
stranger

Registered: 10/10/05
Posts: 5
Loc: Oakland, CA; USA
Hello, OldHand LukeJavan8! From another venue long ago, I recall that you were very good at welcoming "Strangers" and "Newbies" (rather than rough treating them like "igrunt newcomers" as your less gracious colleagues were wont to do!)
==================================================
ON CAPITALIZING, there is some order midst disorder, and hints are to be found in the questions and comments posed by the writers whose names appear above.
TRESSUPS: "If the words originate from proper names it makes sense that you would capitalize it, but it does not seem to be consistent. Can anyone shed any light on this? Is there a standard?"
TSUWM: "not really a standard, but it seems that the caps tend to disappear as usage widens."
THE RENOWNED JAMES KILPATRICK: "The Court of Peeves, Irks & Crotchets resumes . . . with a petition from William H. Painter of Las Vegas. He asks a declaratory ruling on the capitalization of eponyms. With deference to Painter, a favorite correspondent, the court declines. ... The court can discover no bright-line rule. ... Perhaps [another] author has propounded a stylistic rule on capitalization. The court would be grateful for any advice it can get."
DEBRA LEE: "I believe the rule is that if you change a proper noun it ceases to be a proper noun and therefore it is not capitalized."

In a law-school course on patents and trademarks, I recall how the odyssean
marketing efforts of LEVI STRAUSS (makers of jeans) and the CATERPILLAR TRACTOR CO. (mfrs. of earth-moving equipment) to persuade whole populations
to think "Levis" for jeans and "Caterpillar" for earth-movers . . . ultimately led in
both cases, through wide increases in usage, to de-capitalization: levis and caterpillar each became generic. And the signal proprietary advantages that each company had so enjoyed through great marketing efforts over many years was now suddenly dissipated and lost through that de-capitalization. You could now go into J.C.Penney and ask for "levis" and be sold a house brand, because "levis" now referred to really ANY kind of jeans. Thus TSUWM was on point to say
"it seems that the caps tend to disappear as usage widens." And I submit that this classic case of "Levis" and "Caterpillar" shows how many eponyms lost their
capital letters in just such manner, a bit like the way Special Women can lose their virginity and be decapitalized through too broad a usage (this BS is just a test to see if anyone has bothered to read down this far . . .)
============================
The Kilpatrick quotation (imperfectly) illustrates how Legalese (capitalized here
because it is arguably a separate language) despite its wretched inelegance does
nonetheless contain great consistency in the word-capitalization game. I believe it almost reduces to this: if you use "the" in front of the noun, it should be
capitalized; but if you use "a" before such noun, the word loses the special
uniqueness and particularity that "THE" loaned to it. Thus in any brief or
motion, court will be capitalized if it is a PARTICULAR court. So similarly will
Plaintiff and Defendant be capitalized IF there is only one particular plaintiff
or defendant. Kilpatrick ironically reflects this principle in the first line of the
above quote: ""The Court of Peeves . . . resumes" and Court is in caps. But as the long paragraph continues he FORGETS this rule and 'court' thereafter is all lower-case. But Kilpatrick is not a lawyer: we don't need to hold him to the silly
legalese rule (and I think most worry about "capitalization" is pretty silly anyhow:
WHY THE HELL DOES CAPITALIZATION REALLY MATTER? It doesn't make the
words sexier, or you richer for using CAPITALS because you really can't get much
capital out of Capitalizing. What you CAN get out of capitalizing is Confused.
_________________________
Chuckledore (technically a "stranger", but while I'm strange, I don't
really feel like a stranger here. . .)

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#191533 - 06/13/10 12:11 PM Re: Capitalize? [Re: Chuckledore]
zmjezhd Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/13/05
Posts: 3290
Loc: R'lyeh
WHY THE HELL DOES CAPITALIZATION REALLY MATTER?

Writing in all-caps on the Internet is the equivalent of shouting in the Real World™

technically a "stranger"

Keep posting, it doesn't take long to get to the next webelo activity badge.
_________________________
Ceci n'est pas un seing.

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#191543 - 06/13/10 03:18 PM Re: Capitalize? [Re: zmjezhd]
Chuckledore Offline
stranger

Registered: 10/10/05
Posts: 5
Loc: Oakland, CA; USA
"WHY THE HELL . . .?"

Writing in all-caps on the Internet is the equivalent of shouting in the Real World™

Yes, I recall now that once before a friend had so admonished me, adding that this convention is pretty much universal on the Internet. I shall hereafter do my best to restrain the guilty fingers; thank you for the timely counsel.

That said, I cannot help but wonder what the obverse might mean (i.e., using all lower-case letters, as in a handle like "zmjezhd"). Is the seeming Arabic flavor for real, or is that just faux flavor? And how in the world is it pronounced?
_________________________
Chuckledore (technically a "stranger", but while I'm strange, I don't
really feel like a stranger here. . .)

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#191546 - 06/13/10 03:40 PM Re: minusculize, yasha [Re: Chuckledore]
zmjezhd Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/13/05
Posts: 3290
Loc: R'lyeh
I cannot help but wonder what the obverse might mean (i.e., using all lower-case letters, as in a handle like "zmjezhd").

I don't know. Whispering maybe?

Is the seeming Arabic flavor for real, or is that just faux flavor? And how in the world is it pronounced?

My online moniker is just my first name pronounced backwards James /'ʤeɪmz/ backwards is zmjezhd /zmɪeʤ/. Sometimes I spell it with a haček (˛) instead of an added aitch to preserve more of the symmetry.

As far as its flavor, hmm, I'd say it's bitter-sweat.

_________________________
Ceci n'est pas un seing.

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