AP changes to 'website'

Geoff Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Wed Apr 21 21:36:03 UTC 2010

An additional complication here is that I think we conceptualize the Internet as a real place (like Antarctica, or Toronto) where we go to get stuff. Or maybe it's more like Walmart or Sears.
In any case, I suspect it has a lot of the attributes of a proper noun (there's only one of them--I must say I'm a little rusty on the philosophical discussions about them--definite descriptions, I think). In any case, I think it's a little silly to argue about it--we can observe both behaviors, and, as someone mentioned earlier, the semantically-based contrast is pretty much non-existent.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

----- "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

> From: "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 5:12:07 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: Re: AP changes to 'website'
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: AP changes to 'website'
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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".
> VS-)
> 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. .
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