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Italics Too for Proper Nouns from Foreign Languages?

Ross at Play
Updated:

I'm looking at a story which includes words from Japanese martial arts.

I'm sure that all common nouns, e.g. nunchaka, should be in italics to alert readers the words make no sense in English.

I'm not sure about proper nouns, e.g. the name of a particular style of martial arts. Is title case enough for those? Isn't the purpose of title case to alert readers that words may not make sense because they may be an arbitrary name someone chose to identify something?

Michael Loucks
Updated:

@Ross at Play

I use a mix of Japanese characters (which are followed with italicized romaji in parentheses), romaji, and English. Things which are in common use in English (e.g. 'kimono') aren't italicized. So, I have this:

Sensei Jim

Shihan Hiro

外国人 (gaikokujin)


For words such as (gaikokujin), I'll define them once. _gaikokujin_ means 'foreign-country person' and is the polite form of 外人 (gaijin). Generally speaking, I'll only use the 日本語 (Nihongo - Japanese) characters for Japanese speakers. And of course, those characters are a mix of kanji, katakana, and hiragana.

You can see quote a bit of this in AWLL2, Book 7 - Sakurako, Chapters 54-64.

FYI, most of my martial arts terms I've represented in English, as that's what my instructor used, but there are a few in Japanese scattered through the books.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I'm not sure martial arts styles should be capitalized. The closest I found to it at Grammar Girl was name of cocktails. She says even a manhattan is not capitalized even though what it's named after is.
https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/when-should-you-capitalize-cocktail-and-food-names

If the style is a common word, like "judo," I don't think it's italicized. If it's not common, it probably should be.

But I'm not sure of any of that.

Ross at Play

@Michael Loucks

Sensei Jim [but] Shihan Hiro

Thanks.

I can understand 'Sensei Jim'. The 'Sensei' is a title but it's being used as part of someone's name, as you would with 'President Jim'.

I don't understand the italics for 'Shihan'.

Can you explain what 'Sensei' and 'Shihan' mean, and why you treated them differently?

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

Can you explain what 'Sensei' and 'Shihan' mean, and why you treated them differently?


Shihan I'm not familiar with. I don't know the literal translation for Sensei, but as I understand it, it's something along the concept of teacher/instructor/coach.

Replies:   Centaur
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

If the style is a common word, like "judo," I don't think it's italicized.

Judo is what Hebrews use to make bagels.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

The closest I found to it at Grammar Girl was name of cocktails.

Well, that is confusing. CMOS recommends a different style for capitalising than the dictionary it recommends, Merriam-Webster. WTF?

I suppose all you can do is follow this advice fro Grammar Girl, "Pick a style and stick to it."

I take your point, SB, that words originating from a foreign language should no longer have italics once they become commonly used in English, however subjective that judgment test may be.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Michael Loucks

I use a mix of Japanese characters (which are followed with italicized romaji in parentheses), romaji, and English. Things which are in common use in English (e.g. 'kimono') aren't italicized.

Your usage is similar to what I've done with a combination of Arabic, Vietnamese and another which I forget at the moment.

Words like "nunchaka" do have an English version "nunchuck" which wouldn't be italicized, so you can chose either in that case, but like Michael, I'd probably introduce the romanized Japanese version in italics, and then switch to the English version to make it easier to read (having already highlighted how the characters are saying it initially).

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I take your point, SB, that words originating from a foreign language should no longer have italics once they become commonly used in English, however subjective that judgment test may be.

It's not really subjective at all. If you can find it in an English dictionary, then it's not italicized. If it's a purely foreign term, or the non-English spelling, then you italicize it to note that it's not an English term. That seems pretty straightforward.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

It's not really subjective at all.

I would say the choices made by dictionaries are inherently subjective.

But, I suggest the same practical solution as you for that: pick one dictionary and do whatever it suggests.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

It's not really subjective at all.

I would say the choices made by dictionaries are inherently subjective.

I'm using the term 'dictionaries' loosely. I typically use a number of dictionaries. One to look up synonyms and antonyms, one to look up word origins, and a PRO online version to get more detail on usage patterns. But I don't check every dictionary available, I have specific dictionaries for very specific purposes. For most authors, a single dictionary is more than enough!

Michael Loucks
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Thanks.

I can understand 'Sensei Jim'. The 'Sensei' is a title but it's being used as part of someone's name, as you would with 'President Jim'.

I don't understand the italics for 'Shihan'.

Can you explain what 'Sensei' and 'Shihan' mean, and why you treated them differently?


Sensei is in common English usage, so I treat it as such (Cf. The Karate Kid from 1984). It means, roughly, teacher.

Shihan (師範) means 'Chief Instructor' or 'Master Instructor', and as it's not in common English usage, I treat it as a foreign word.

I use Italics for foreign words in Latin script (including Romaji), the European style quotes (which the forum won't let me use but look like double angle brackets) for foreign words in Cyrillic, and no special characters to denote Japanese, Korean, or Chinese glyphs.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Just as an aside, the author mentioned the character getting their 12th belt, which immediately set off red flags for me. Last I checked, which I don't often, most martial arts only have around six to eight. If the 12 figure is correct, then he should probably explain it, so the casual reader won't assume it's a mistake.

Just looked it up. The color of the obi is historically based, as they used to dye the student's old best a new color, rather than buying a new one ever time. Thus the color choices were limited. The magic number of choices is actually 10, starting with white (no color) and ending with black (can no longer add any color variants).

It's possible a new martial art was invented after mass-production of commercial obis began, but otherwise readers are likely to question his precise number. A simple explanation would ease the reader of this very minor nit.

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Michael Loucks
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The magic number of choices is actually 10, starting with white (no color) and ending with black (can no longer add any color variants).


But there are also grades - for example, in Shotokan, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kyu are all brown belts, then purple (4th Kyu), blue (5th), green (6th), orange (7th), yellow (8th), white (9th and 10th).

For black belts, it's 1st Dan through 10th Dan. In some dojos stripes are added to the belt to signify rank, and 9th and 10th Dan masters will often wear red belts.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Michael Loucks

Sensei is in common English usage ... (Cf. The Karate Kid from 1984)

Common in American English? Probably. I'm not so sure about British English.

It's listed in dictionary.com but not the Oxford Dictionary.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Centaur

@Dominions Son

Sensei is also a Doctors title.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Centaur

Sensei is also a Doctors title.


When I looked into the meaning of sensei some years back I found out it had a range of meanings that were dependent on the context of the usage. The most common meanings being teacher, senior teacher, and master of the house or facility. So the senior teacher at a dojo is a sensei while the master of another facility is also called sensei while there.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

It's listed in dictionary.com but not the Oxford Dictionary.


Interesting. I wonder why they took it out. It's in the two-decade-old dead tree dictionary from the Oxford stable that I keep next to my desk.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Michael Loucks

But there are also grades - for example, in Shotokan, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kyu are all brown belts, then purple (4th Kyu), blue (5th), green (6th), orange (7th), yellow (8th), white (9th and 10th).

For black belts, it's 1st Dan through 10th Dan. In some dojos stripes are added to the belt to signify rank, and 9th and 10th Dan masters will often wear red belts.

Ahh, that explains the difference. That makes sense, though I'd add that to the story, just to ensure that readers comprehend the difference too.

That's why authors use editors, to pick up the little things which trip readers up, whether it's grammar, punctuation, formatting, styles or plot holes.

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Interesting. I wonder why they took it out. It's in the two-decade-old dead tree dictionary from the Oxford stable that I keep next to my desk.

It's more likely that the online version is more limited, especially as they, like their American counterparts, keep adding new words in while dropping the older ones in order to keep the reference appealing to young kids (i.e. anyone younger than 60). 'D

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I was being sarcastic :(

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sensei

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sensei

It seems my edition of the OxD, the Advanced Learner's, omits the definition of 'sensei'. I knew it has less definitions than the Concise edition, but that one surprises me.

I should probably start checking the online edition more often.

The definition you quoted confirms one conclusion I'd already come to: that 'sensei' should have an initial capital when used as a title in someone's name, but not in other situations.

I still cannot see any reason for using italics too for something that's already in title case.

I'm leaning towards recommending to the author that - for this story - they use italics for all words with an obvious Japanese origin, except those in title case. For occasional words I'd tend to go be guided by one dictionary and only use italics for words they do not list. But for this story, the result of doing that would appear somewhat inconsistent.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Michael Loucks

@Crumbly Writer

Ahh, that explains the difference. That makes sense, though I'd add that to the story, just to ensure that readers comprehend the difference too.

That's why authors use editors, to pick up the little things which trip readers up, whether it's grammar, punctuation, formatting, styles or plot holes.


My editor actually started studying shotokan after reading the descriptions in A Well-Lived Life!

I explained as much as I could in the story without being obnoxious about it. I also took a few liberties with how competitions work for simplicity in the story. The karate story starts in Book 6 of the first series, and really culminates in Book7 of the second series (though it continues after that, of course).

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I'm leaning towards recommending to the author that - for this story - they use italics for all words with an obvious Japanese origin, except those in title case. For occasional words I'd tend to go be guided by one dictionary and only use italics for words they do not list. But for this story, the result of doing that would appear somewhat inconsistent.

You also only need to italicize the word the first time it's used, rather than each time a person says it, though I supposed, if you use it once in chapter 2 and again in chapter 37, it wouldn't hurt to italicize it again for all those who don't remember it. The italics are only there to alert readers that it's not an English word, but once they're familiar with it, there's little sense in reminding them.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

You also only need to italicize the word the first time it's used

CMOS agrees with that. From paragraph 7.49

If a foreign word becomes familiar through repeated use throughout a work, it need be italicized only on its first occurrence. If it appears only rarely, however, italics may be retained.

Replies:   Dicrostonyx
Dicrostonyx

@Ross at Play

Back to your original question as to whether non-English proper nouns should be italicised, CMOS 11.4 "Non-English proper nouns in an English context" reads:

With the exception of titles of books and the like, proper nouns from other languages are generally not italicized, even on first mention (cf. 11.3). This usage extends to named places and structures, institutions and companies, brand names, and other categories as discussed in chapter 8... Capitalization should follow predominant usage in the original language. In some cases, this may entail observing a preference for capitalization that runs counter to the conventions for generic text... when in doubt [lacking access to an authority], opt for sentence-style capitalization


Examples for the page include:

I prefer the Bibliothèque nationale by day and the Bois de Boulogne by night.

Mexico City's Ángel de la Independencia is known familiarly as "El Ángel."

So the answer to the original question is no, you don't italicise proper nouns.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dicrostonyx

So the answer to the original question is no, you don't italicise proper nouns.

Thanks for that. It won't please everybody here, but CMOS is good enough for me for this point.

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