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Capitalisation (one for the Grammar Experts)

awnlee jawking
Updated:

I have a little problemette that I expect the grammar experts here will be able to solve off the top of their heads.

In my story, there's a local name for a cliff. When the characters refer to it, particularly in dialogue, which words should start with capitals and why? The local name is 'THE STACKS' (yep, hedging my bets there!)

Ta muchly,

AJ

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

This is one of those tricky ones, because it depends on how much they tie the word 'the' into the name. The most common usage has the word 'the' as all lower case, but when it constitutes a part of the formal name it has a capital 'T' in it. If it shows on maps with the word 'the' then that is part of the name and should be a capital as The Stacks, but if it shows on maps simply as Stacks then you use lower cased in the. A case in point is the Thames River shows simply as Thames or Thames River on maps.

If this is a fictional place you get to choose which way it should be written.

Edit to add: I'd go with The Stacks to give it more prominence.

Zom

@awnlee jawking

which words should start with capitals and why?

The definite article 'the' is generally used lower case for multiple items, so therefore 'the Stacks' would be correct. The exception for this would be if the name is formally gazetted with the 'the' included, and would then be 'The Stacks', but this is not common. Your choice really.

zebra69347

@Ernest Bywater

The proper name for the Thames in England is River Thames.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

I'd go with The Stacks to give it more prominence.


The locals always refer to it with a 'the' in front and although the word 'stacks' is plural, it's actually employed as singular because it refers to a single cliff face.

Thanks Ernest, I like your answer. I had been writing it with a little 't' and it looked wrong.

AJ

Geek of Ages

If the title of a thing includes "the" as the first word, then that "the" is capitalized. E.g. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time".

I'd go with "The Stacks"

Ross at Play

I agree with EB's explanation.
If everybody always calls it "The Stacks" then capitalise 'The' because it is part of its name.

richardshagrin

Maybe its the S tax, because they are taxing plurals.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

If this is a fictional place you get to choose which way it should be written.

I'd go with The Stacks to give it more prominence.

Seeing as this is SOL, I'd go with "The STACKED". 'D

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I would guess "the Stacks" for the same reason it's "the New York Times."

ETA a reference: This was an answer to whether "the" should be lower case in "the New Yorker." The questioner mistakingly assumes it's capitalized in "the New York Times."


Chicago settled on lowercasing and printing in roman type the in the name of a periodical.


The full question and answer:


Q. It has baffled me for years why the name of The New Yorker is sometimes written the New Yorker, and today I learned it is because the Chicago Manual advises it. I'm not sure why. The title of the magazine, as William Shawn used to say, is The New Yorker. To present it otherwise is to make a factual error, as it would be to print the New York Times, or the first letters of someone's name in lowercase.

A. The books published by the University of Chicago Press regularly contain thousands of source citations. Given the impracticality of tracking down the "official" title and casing for each one, writers and editors dodge the issue by following a house style guide. The goal is to treat all titles the same way. This tactic has been so universally accepted that by now readers tend to be more outraged when two sources are treated differently than when a casing diverges from what they know to be "correct." When you think about it, there would be no need for style manuals to rule on this issue if writers had the time and means to research whether every obscure source includes The in its title or not. And besides, not every source is as consistent or well known as the New Yorker. It's not always possible to track down a single correct answer. Publishers can be inconsistent: even their own documents, websites, letterhead, and logos sometimes fail to agree. Long before the days of Internet fact-checking, Chicago settled on lowercasing and printing in roman type the in the name of a periodical. If this means our books are filled with factual errors, they are at least serenely consistent, and few readers know exactly where the errors are.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

But I would probably write it as "The Stacks." As long as you're consistent, you're right.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  Zom
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Thank you.

AJ

Zom

@Switch Blayde

But I would probably write it as "The Stacks.

Me too. But before deciding just consider whether it is 'The Hatfields' or 'the Hatfields'. Hatfields is a collective like Stacks probably is, but you don't see people writing 'I met all The Hatfields'.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Zom

That's because their title doesn't include the word "the".

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

If "The Stacks" is a nickname for a cliff, then "the" is capitalized. This is from Grammar Girl:

And here's a bonus tip from my e-mail newsletter. What about nicknames? Should Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino capitalize his nickname? He should, and he does. In fact, he made sure to note that his nickname should be capitalized when he spelled it while ordering a pizza.

All nicknames are capitalized because they are treated just like names, which makes them proper nouns.


So if "The Stacks" is the nickname for the cliff, then "The Stacks" is the proper noun.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

All nicknames are capitalized because they are treated just like names, which makes them proper nouns.

Yes, but be aware of the distinction between nicknames and terms of endearment, status, etc., especially when used to address someone in dialogue.
Nicknames, expressions frequently used in place of someone's name, should be capitalised.
Other terms used in place of names, e.g. love, sir, captain, dumbass, are not capitalised when used without a name to address someone in dialogue. For example, use "Yes, captain", but "Yes, Captain Smith".

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Yes, but be aware of the distinction between nicknames and terms of endearment,


We discussed this a while ago. If a father calls his daughter "princess," is it a nickname or term of endearment? This is where the author has the power of God. If the author capitalizes it, it's a nickname. If he doesn't, it's a term of endearment.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

If a father calls his daughter "princess," is it a nickname or term of endearment? This is where the author has the power of God. If the author capitalizes it, it's a nickname. If he doesn't, it's a term of endearment.

Agreed.

Zom

@awnlee jawking

grammar experts here will be able to solve off the top of their heads

So hopefully you have your solution. I suspect the trick was separating it from all the other solutions …

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ross at Play

Other terms used in place of names, e.g. love, sir, captain, dumbass, are not capitalised when used without a name to address someone in dialogue.


I'm not comfortable with that, especially when it's a term of respect. I'd use a capital for eg Captain, Sir, Ma'am in 'Yes Captain' etc.

I guess I'm going to Grammar Nazi Hell ;)

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I guess I'm going to Grammar Nazi Hell

I expect the company will be more interesting there than at the alternative.

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I'm not comfortable with that ...

I feel the same. Spelling a title like King or Emperor with lower case appears somehow genuinely wrong to me. I guess I'll join you in grammarly hell.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Captain, Sir, Ma'am in 'Yes Captain' etc.


When referring to a rank or title the collective is usually lower case while the specific is usually upper case. Thus you can have four captains in the regiment, but the when you go to HQ to talk to the commander of Company B you wish to see the Captain, and some would say The Captain. In a similar way you would have Captain Smith as a ship's captain.

Ross at Play

I CONCEDE ...
Titles used alone are capitalised when addressing someone in dialogue, but not in other contexts. Terms of endearment are not capitalised in dialogue.

I checked in CMOS - so don't shoot me! I'm only the messenger.
This is included (my emphasis) in 8.19 Exceptions to the general rule (for titles and offices):

A title used alone, in place of a personal name, is capitalized only in such contexts as a toast or a formal introduction, or when used in direct address.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister.
I would have done it, Captain, but the ship was sinking.
Thank you, Mr. President.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

Spelling a title like King or Emperor with lower case appears somehow genuinely wrong to me.

There are situations I'd use capitals for monarchs or popes, but not presidents or lower-ranking nobles.

Ernest Bywater

King George V was King of England, but only one of many kings at that time. Thus you stand when the King enters the room.

Specific King gets a capital, general king doesn't. - - Applies to all titles and ranks.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

general king

For a specific General King use capitals. Also capitalize General Hospital, General Motors, General Mills.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Specific King gets a capital, general king doesn't. - - Applies to all titles and ranks.

For those who prefer to follow CMOS, that only applies to other titles and ranks in specific situations, e.g. when the title attached to a name or used to directly address or introduce the person.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Nicknames, expressions frequently used in place of someone's name, should be capitalised.


You prescient wizard!

I've just jumped ahead to the epilogue and I wanted pet names for the two characters to use for each other. Personally I abhor 'babe' or 'baby' but they're extremely common so I relented. Then I hit the dilemma of whether to capitalise. It seems to be a murky area but my current feeling is 'yes'.

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Personally I abhor 'babe' or 'baby' but they're extremely common so I relented. Then I hit the dilemma of whether to capitalise. It seems to be a murky area but my current feeling is 'yes'.

To me, 'babe' is so generic I think I'd always treat it as a term of endearment (no capital) rather than a nickname.
I may do differently in the kind of situation SB mentioned above of a father who calls his daughter 'Princess'. But doing so suggests he always calls her that whenever he is not using her real name.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ross at Play

To me, 'babe' is so generic


Yes, that's the downside of being so common. But I'll stick with it unless I think of something better.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Your self-vilification is profoundly enough to be counted as bragging.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Apologies, I've edited the post.

I'm bored because I'm unable to use my PC for writing at the moment.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Personally I abhor 'babe' or 'baby' but they're extremely common so I relented


Nicknames are capitalized. Terms of endearment are not.

If the character is always called "Baby," it's a nickname. There was one in "Dirty Dancing."

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Then I hit the dilemma of whether to capitalise. It seems to be a murky area but my current feeling is 'yes'.


I didn't always capitalise pet names until after speaking to an English Professor who also teaches writing classes, who told me 'you should treat nicknames and pet names the same way you treat the person's real name.' Thus, I now put all nicknames and pet names in capitals because it replaces their real name which you'd capitalise anyway.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

NYC has 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, etc.). But one of them is preceded with the article "the." And "the" is not capitalized so it is "the Bronx."

But when it's used as an adjective, there is no "the" as in: "An old Bronx man."

Source: http://grammarist.com/usage/the-bronx/

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

And "the" is not capitalized so it is "the Bronx."
But when it's used as an adjective, there is no "the" as in: "An old Bronx man."
Source: http://grammarist.com/usage/the-bronx/

I suspect the reason the site has that entry is that it's an exception to the general rule of grammar which has evolved over time from common usage. The difference appears to be that while the actual name is 'Bronx', common usage requires it to be preceded by 'the' in some types of constructions.
I think the general practice, for something like a location in a national park known as 'The Falls', would be to use a capitalised 'The Falls' in all contexts.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

The difference appears to be that while the actual name is 'Bronx', common usage requires it to be preceded by 'the' in some types of constructions.


I wonder whether that's particular to area names eg the Ukraine, the Congo.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I wonder whether that's particular to area names eg the Ukraine, the Congo.


I don't know about those two, but growing up in NY I heard two reasons why it was "the Bronx."

1. There was a farm there owned by a guy with the family name of Bronck. People would say when they visited him, "I'm going to the Broncks."

2. This one is similar. The river on his farm was named after him. So people would say, "I'm going to the Broncks river."

Broncks was changed to Bronx like the Boston Red Socks were changed to Red Sox.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I wonder whether that's particular to area names eg the Ukraine, the Congo.

I would agree this is a fuzzy area based mostly on everyday usage, which may be somewhat eclectic.
I would use The Hague in all situations, but the Netherlands. I would want to know that a The is used in all situations before I'd use a capital for it in any situation.

Replies:   helmut_meukel
richardshagrin
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Boston Red Socks were changed to Red Sox.


Weren't they the red stockings? A long time ago. And Boston backwards is not SOB.

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Boston Red Stockings may refer to:
The Atlanta Braves of the National League, established in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings, followed by a few name changes and two relocations
The Boston Reds of the Union Association in 1884, also called the "Unions".
The Boston Red Stockings of the Players' League in 1890 and the American Association in 1891, although the team was called "Reds" more often than "Red Stockings"
The Boston Red Sox, established 1901 and still active, named "Red Sox" with red stockings in their logo (but never actually called "red stockings") in 1908"

helmut_meukel

@Ross at Play

I would use The Hague in all situations


While foreign names for The Hague are similar to the now more used Dutch name Den Haag, its other name still official in use is 's-Gravenhage, a concatenation of "des Graven ha(a)ge".
The not-quite-city (never got city rights) uses always Den Haag, while in ID documents (place of birth) or marriage certificates it's 's-Gravenhage.

BTW, the shorter name Den Haag is older than 's-Gravenhage.

HM.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@helmut_meukel

While foreign names for The Hague are similar to the now more used Dutch name Den Haag, its other name still official in use ...

Thanks for the info - and I'm not being contrary here - but the official name is not the only name which might be validly treated as a proper noun for some person, place, or thing.
An official name definitely is a proper name and should always be capitalised. But - and this is a grey area - nicknames may also be well-enough established to be capitalised as proper nouns too. For example, should you capitalise both of these names of a famous golfer, Tiger Woods and Eldrick Woods? Obviously, you should.
The grey area is with pet names, names that one person frequently calls another. Style guide state they should not be capitalised, but there appears to be a consensus among those here that authors are, at the very least, entitled to treat some pet names as proper nouns.
SB cited an example of a father who calls his daughter "Princess". IMHO, if the father always calls her that or her actual name, that is sufficient to justify treating it as a nickname, but my interpretation of CMOS is that they do not agree. I think they consider a nickname is only something most people would recognise as an alternative name for a person.

Then again - as always - consistency trumps any rule. I would not do it, but I wouldn't argue an author was doing anything wrong if they used capitals for everything used as a substitute for someone's name.

Then again - I recently did precisely that myself! I was editing a story in which the author was using a lot of unusual pet names, things like connivance, destroyer, and a variety of less inflammatory ordinary words. I recommended, for just that story, they should capitalise all such usages, on the grounds that otherwise the risk was too great readers would become confused trying to interpret those words with their standard meaning.

So, going back to Den Haag ... I would still write that as 'The Hague' in all situations. It may only be a nickname, but it's one that everyone would recognise, and it's always(?) said with the word 'The'.

I just checked ngrams. When 'Hague' was used, 61% were preceded by 'The', 17% by 'the', and 23% by neither.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Tiger Woods and Eldrick Woods?


I believe he legally changed his name to Tiger.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

believe he legally changed his name to Tiger.

Wouldn't it be Tiger Woods and Eldrik Irons? While he putters around. Not to club you over the head.

helmut_meukel
Updated:

@Ross at Play


So, going back to Den Haag ... I would still write that as 'The Hague' in all situations. It may only be a nickname, but it's one that everyone would recognise, and it's always(?) said with the word 'The'.


Den Haag is no nickname it's the original name for the village. IIRC, in the 17th century it was changed to 'sGravenhage (starting with an apostrophe and a lowercase s) to make it clearer whose ha(a)ge it was: the Count of Holland's hage.

Because it became the residence of the government – while Amsterdam is the capital – the government denied them city rights. The government wanted to have the last say and not argue with an obstinate city councel.

Finally the city changed its name back to Den Haag, but an attempt to change the name in some official documents (IDs, marriage certificates,...) was denied. There it's still 'sGravenhage. Postal Service and Telecom use 'sGravenhage while the railroad uses Den Haag.

HM.

pcbondsman

@Ernest Bywater


Specific King gets a capital, general king doesn't. - - Applies to all titles and ranks.


How about Admiral King? :)

(Admiral Ernest King to be more precise.)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@pcbondsman

How about Admiral King? :)


You capitalised that properly, and the same would be said for his brother General Joe King. :)

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Joe King


Shirley, you are joking.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Shirley, you are joking.


No, and my name's not Shirley either.

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