AP changes to 'website'

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 21 21:12:07 UTC 2010

I can't say that I agree with such an evaluation. We often capitalize
fairly common nouns that represent somehow singular and distinct usage
from other uses of the "same" noun. For example, any legal court--be
it people's court or kangaroo court--is rarely capitalized. However,
all references--at least, in legal and academic documents--to the US
Supreme Court as simply "the Court" must be capitalized because this
particular court is unique. Similarly, when we talk about a church or
even "the church"--whether we imply an individual building, its
congregation or even the entire denomination--we almost never use
capitalization. One exception is the Catholic Church, which is usually
referred as simply the Church. I suppose, one may not want to refer to
such instances as "proper nouns", but this is a peripheral issue, as
the original question was about capitalization. The global "internet"
started out being referred to as the "World Wide Web" or, simply, "the
Web"--with respective capitalization. It was a unique, identifiable
structure that deserved to be singled out with capitalization. I am
not sure "internet" ever had such a distinction--and "internet"
precedes "the Web" as a concept, although they obviously now refer to
the same thing. No one refers to the internet as "World Wide Web" any
more unless they are trying to appear mocking or pedantic.

Why no capitalization now? Same reason why most people no longer
capitalize Xerox and Kleenex and even Google in writing--it's been
genericized, even if the genericization is only in the public mind,
not in corporate legalities. Go ahead, try to convince someone that
Dumpster should be capitlized. Same for Aspirin, Kerosene, Zipper,
Escalator, Personal Computer--capitalize one of those and people will
look at you funny. On the other hand, Scotch tape, Frisbee, Band-Aid,
Wite-Out, Popsicle, Styrofoam, Velcro, Thermos, Hi-Lighter, Jeep all
can go either way with virtual impunity even though the trademarks are
still protected.

The point is that ubiquity removes capitalization, irrespectively of
whether it was a proper noun, a trademark or just a singular "object".


On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 3:35 PM,  <ronbutters at aol.com> wrote:
> I'm don't understand how you are using the term "proper noun" but I can't see how it could ever have properly applied to "internet" or "website."
> For the record, both "Kleenex" and "Xerox" are legally protected trademarks and should be capitized. Legal professionals call them "adjectives," though from linguistic point of view I think of them as proper nouns used appositively. .

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list