best essay websites writing a thesis paper buy papers online for college customer essay online paper writers writing a thesis paper custom essay writing services reviews thesis editing essays about service essay writing help thesis support english essay writing help essay help sydney help me write a descriptive essay where can i find someone to write my paper english essay helper the essay writer best cheap essay application essay writing service best cheap essay college application essay editing services cheap essay online thesis to book i need help writing an argumentative essay phd degree best essay writing websites can someone write my paper for me best essay writing service canada mba admission essay writing service write my persuasive paper thesis writing admission essay services essay help chat room write my paper for cheap best cheap essay write my paper canada buy research papers cheap writing a doctoral thesis good thesis writing design and technology gcse coursework research paper writing help help writing essays for scholarships custom research paper service phd thesis writing services academic custom essays psychology thesis essay on customer service admission college essay help thesis literature review thesis writing help best cheap essay writing service help me write a thesis coursework paper do my essay for me cheap writing with a thesis custom essays essay help write my paper co custom research papers for sale help with paper essay writers review best essay writing service canada buy an essay help on writing a paper online paper writing service help me write an essay writing my thesis writing a thesis outline The French Poodle Ate My French Fries, but She Didn’t Eat My Brussels Sprouts « Publishing « Beneath the Cover

The French Poodle Ate My French Fries, but She Didn’t Eat My Brussels Sprouts

By Jay Hodges

At the dog park last weekend, a car pulled in with the sticker “I love my French poodle” on the back bumper. My dog Otis stopped midsniff as the pom-pom-sporting poodle darted from the car to the nearest patch of grass. Otis wanted to say hello, but not being able to bark a word of French, he was just too intimidated. No matter how much I tried to convince Otis that the poodle probably wasn’t French as in from France French, he wouldn’t budge. Who would have thought a lousy bumper sticker could have such an effect on a dog’s self-esteem?

My interpretation of the line was different from Otis’s. I assumed the creator of the sticker had erroneously thought that “French poodle” is a breed and had capitalized the initial letter of the term as is the commonly accepted spelling for the names of breeds that can be traced to specific geographic locations (e.g., Rhodesian ridgeback, Norwegian elkhound, and Chihuahua).

But if capitalizing the first letter of the word to identify the geographic origin of something is common practice, then why, you may ask, not capitalize the F in “french toast,” the B in “brie,” or the initial I in “india ink”? If Webster’s is your source for capitalization and spelling, then you probably already capitalize these initial letters. But watch out, Webster’s can be vague. For example, the main entry for “scotch” (as in the whiskey distilled in Scotland) is “Scotch,” with a capital S. However, “often not capitalized” precedes the definition. Another example of this sort of fuzziness is the term “french fry,” which appears with lowercase Fs, but is followed by the usage note “often capitalized first F.” Hmmm. Though Webster’s will let you know how the word “scotch” commonly appears, and that the first F in “french fry” may or may not be capitalized, the dictionary reflects the vernacular instead of hard-and-fast rules that determine usage.

At Greenleaf, we refer to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) first, Webster’s second. CMS states that words derived from personal names are usually capitalized: Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the play No Exit. “Hell is other people” is a Sartrean concept. CMS refines usage with the following rule of thumb: “personal, national, or geographic names, and names derived from such names, are often lowercased when used with a nonliteral meaning.” So instead of adding “French bread” to your shopping list when you want a baguette, write “french bread,” lest you end up trying to decide between a croissant and un petit pan in the imported bread section of your bakery. The same holds true for “french braid,” “french toast,” “french dressing,” and “french doors.” (My how we’ve been influenced by the French.)

So, following the CMS’s guidelines for capitalizing words derived from proper nouns, wouldn’t it seem logical that the proper spelling of the dog breeds listed above appear with a lowercase letter? One would think so. But CMS recommends consulting a dictionary for the proper spelling of domestic animal breeds. You try explaining that to your dog.

Tags: beneath the cover, Creative Writing, teaching writing, Technical writing, Writing, Writing skills, writing styles, writing-a-book

How To Publish A Best Selling Book

Subscribe To Beneath The Cover's Blog

Join the many publishers and authors who already get their updates sent straight to their inbox. Enter your email address below:

  • Pingback: french braid()

  • rosemary

    info on capitalization

  • Mick

    This is how whisky is spelled when referring to Scotch. Note the missing e.

  • Josh

    Great piece. Informative and enjoyable.

  • Stratocaster

    Our tour guide informed us that only two things are “Scotch”: whiskey and tape. Everything else is either Scottish or Scots. Always capitalized.

  • Guest

    Should I capitalize Romaine (lettuce) or Alfredo (sauce)?