Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (capitalization)/Archive 1

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Archive 1 Archive 2


Geographical features

What is the naming convention for geographic features? Is it Great Victoria desert or Great Victoria Desert, Colorado River or Colorado river? I'd say that these are proper names, and therefore should be written with capitals, and most style guides for English support that. However, not everybody does write it like that, making it a difficult point to decide upon with this naming convention on capitalization. Should we go for "capitalize"? Jeronimo

Unless we can find a good precedant that I am unaware of, they should be capitalized. But maybe that is an American English perspective. Colorado river is just wrong, but what about Thames river (or the river Thames)? Rmhermen 08:09 Aug 12, 2002 (PDT)
The desert's name is not Great Victoria, with 'desert' as an explanatory apposition, it's Great Victoria Desert. Admittedly, some deserts do have plain names, like the Sahara and the Gobi, but consistency requires the 'Desert' to be capitalized if you add it.
Rivers usually do have independent names - Thames, Rhone, Nile - but consistency again says if you do add 'River' it should be capitalized as part of the name: River Thames, Colorado River. (The UK convention is that Old-World rivers generally begin with 'River'.)
Likewise Mount Rushmore, Lake Constance, Caspian Sea: if it's a name, its generic part is always capitalized. Gritchka

Laws and Razors

Would I be right that 'Law' should be in lower case?

(most others are in caps)

What about 'Razor'?

Lower case is correct in both instances. Eclecticology 05:24 May 4, 2003 (UTC)

Moved from the pump:

Article title starting with lower-case

Currently, it is impossible to start an article title with a lower-case letter. So we get things like IMac instead of iMac. Was there any discussions about this feature? Any possibility that it will be changed in the future? Thanks, Tomos 05:02 Mar 24, 2003 (UTC)

Leaving your ACTUAL question for the more technically minded to answer, in the meantime, you can take advantage of the fact that the first letter of an article is case-insensitive: iMac and IMac take you to the same place. So even if the article title is "funny", your reference to it doesn't need to be... -- Someone else
Initial capitalization is a tricky thing. If we were to make title completely case-sensitive, you'd get links to two separate pages from these two sentences:
Asteroids are relatively abundant in the region between...
Many have dreamed of colonizing the asteroids and mining...
That would greatly magnify the occasional problems caused by variations in capitalization in subsequent words. Alternatively, we might preserve the case, thus allowing iMac and pH to look right, while allowing both variations to match and link to the single article. This would lead to great inconsistency in titles, as we find ourselves with here a lowercase asteroid and there a capital Comet. This would at least be aesthetically displeasing (less a lot of effort at renaming to maintain a nicer system); and I'm not sure how much trouble it would be to make partial case insensitivity work -- and if we were to change to complete case insensitivity, at least hundreds of title pairs would need to be cleaned up. Redirects removed and alternates merged or disambiguated; that's going to require some manual labor.
The simplest solution would be to create a manual tag of some sort creating a 'display title', which would be displayed in the header in place of the page's 'real' name and could be differently capitalized or contain special characters. (I think this was discussed a long time ago on the mailing list, I don't know what the commentary was.) --Brion 06:30 Mar 24, 2003 (UTC)
Seeing words that could go either way sometimes starting with an initial capital and sometimes not would be a whole lot less esthetically displeasing to me than seeing nonsense such as E (mathematical constant) and CmH2O and even a "Redirected from MmHg" and "Redirected from KPa" and the like. There ought to be some way to override the software's automatic capitalization of the first letter. Gene Nygaard 09:04, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The "Display Title" - yes, great idea! Tannin 09:08 Mar 24, 2003 (UTC)
Brion noted that full case insensitivity in links would cause hundreds of duplicated title pairs. Except for redirects (which could just be eliminated), shouldn't these be cleaned up or merged anyway? - Lou I 06:30 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Sorry to bring this up - it's no doubt been thrashed to death but I can't find the explanation: How is it that "full case insensitivity in links would cause hundreds of duplicated title pairs"? Thanks. --Mucky Duck 12:20, 4 November 2005 (UTC)
I suspect he's talking about things like tea (the drink) vs. TEA (the acronym which stands for ... many things), and ... um ... well, that's the only one I know. Is there any way to get a list of these "titles differ only in capitalization" articles? (Preferably leaving out the ones that merely redirect to a different capitalization)? --DavidCary 07:22, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Article titles

I don't understand why article titles don't follow usual English language titling rules, wherein the first and last word are always capitalized and all other words are capitalized besides the articles and prepositions (basically). This would lead to less argument over page titles, among other things, since there wouldn't have to be arguments over whether some concept is a proper noun or not, as seems to erupt from time to time. john 05:45 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Amen to that. However flexibility isn't a hallmark of Wikien. Style is more important than content. By definition, Wiki is full of obsessives (like me) and for many the desire to be like a paper encyclopedia (=a real encyclopedia) matters more than the content. You will have noticed that most of those insisting on capiatlisation don't actually write new articles on the animal subjects, or sort out, for example, the three different articles on the Moose that existed untill yesterday. jimfbleak 05:53 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)
I wasn't commenting on the animal issue entirely, but on all sorts of issues. I just don't see why there's any reason at all not to uses standard title capitalizations. john 06:01 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)
As I understand it, it's mostly to make inline references work better without a zillion redirs - for instance (from Astronomy and astrophysics) "...astronomy embraces the scientific method..." which would sound way too Teutonic if you had to do it as "...astronomy embraces the Scientific Method...". In theory, Wikipedia canonicalization could be made smart enough, but it would be really hard and consume lots of server cycles. Chicago Manual of Style also discourages much traditional capitalization these days. Stan 06:12 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)
The linking issue makes sense, but the subject of capitalisation of headings that arent linked doesnt seem to have been addressed on this page. For an example of inconsistent use of title case, see the Wikipedia main page, it is using "Title Case" for its headings, but it seems to be encouraging users to not use "Title Case" in its articles... Steeev 12:54, 10 Dec 2003 (UTC)
"Forget What You Learned In School: If You Look At Most Newspapers And Magazines, They Don't Do It Anymore." -- "Little Things Add Up" by Dave Gray. We have a chance to make something even more useful to our readers. Let's not blow this chance by making things just as hard-to-read as they've always been. --DavidCary 07:22, 14 December 2005 (UTC)
Because credibility is a primary objective in the creation of any reference work, and because the Wikipedia strives to become a leading (if not the) leading reference work in its genre, formality and an adherence to conventions widely used in the genre are critically important to credibility. Therefore, although the Wikipedia search engine does not lend itself to the style of capitalization recommended for titles in authoritative manuals of style (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style, The Guardian Manual of Style, The Little Brown Reader, and The Harbrace College Handbook), I would like to recommend in the editing guidelines and polices that the "work around" described in the last bulleted item in the second paragraph of the "Case sensitivity and searching" section of Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization) be implemented with the use of "redirects" linking to a page that uses the correct capitalization for all encyclopedia articles. This entails a little more work, but should be adhered to and I would like to recommend this as a guideline or policy for the future.
Mr. Gray makes an interesting point. However, I have not seen for myself what he is describing: that the convention of using capital letters for the first and last words of a title, and all other words except articles, coordinating conjunctions, prespositions, and the particle "to" when used with infinitives (the verb itself is capitalized), is no longer adhered to. It is only in the "nerdy" (no offense intended since I am not referring specifically to the previous writer) hi-tech world is the formality of capitalization in titles abandoned as an expedient to technological efficiency. The formality of capitalization in this instance serves to create a sense of importance that would otherwise be lacking and fail to distinguish the function of the title sufficiently from the text which it entitles. Lottamiata 20:28, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

Hi all. I'm new and have just made my first contribution. I created the Yamaha XJ900 motorcycle entry. Only problem is that the title (XJ 900) has a space between the J and the 9. Other motorcycles have titles like Z650 and CB900 with no space. All the Yamaha ones have a space, and I think the space shouldn't be there. I can't edit the title either. What should I do? Cheers. John JSL595 10:49, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

You can click the move option on top of the article and rename the title to format you desire. --Siva1979Talk to me 04:40, 11 June 2006 (UTC)


Might I suggest that the animal capitalization bits point over to Wikipedia:Naming conventions (fauna), that way it can be hashed out in one place? Stan 06:12 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)

As long as there is a link from capitalisation, I have no problems with that. I'd forgotten the fauna bit, and its clear from the current edit wars that most other people start from capitalisation. I don't think there is any contradiction between the two articles, so mine is probably superfluous once a link is added jimfbleak 06:31 4 Jun 2003 (UTC)
The Wilson's Storm-petrel example given here before (as Wilson's Storm-Petrel) was in conflict with the specifications on the Wikipedia:WikiProject Birds page, so I've amended it to match that page - MPF 23:41, 8 Feb 2004 (UTC)


While my personal preference is to capitalise as done for birds & most other fauna, the overwhelming majority of plants are already not capitalised, so changing them all to capital first letters would be a logistic nightmare. So the handful of cases where they have been capitalised (e.g. the Scots Pine example cited here) I'm converting (as I find them) to only the very first letter capitalised (Scots pine) for the sake of standardisation - MPF 12:30, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)

  • Can someone cite an authority for capitalization of species? I see no difference between red pine and claw hammer or ladybird beetle and ladyfinger sandwich. It smells of the same hypercapitalization that I find in the corporate world, where every job title and business term tends to get capitalized. Proper noun parts, like American buffalo require a capital for their own reasons. --Tysto 01:39, 2005 August 14 (UTC)
    • I don't believe there is any authority except in the case of birds, where (I'm told), the ornithologists have made an official decision to capitalize. It would be a lot easier for us if there was an authority to follow... Stan 05:08, 14 August 2005 (UTC)


I think it important to point to the differences in capitalisation in American English and British English, as Jtdirl has discussed on the mailing list and in Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (theorems). -- Jim Regan 02:14 20 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I just read the assertion that the UK uses capitals more than the US. I am convinced that it is the other way around, at least for headings. I have discussed this over the years with people. I tell people to compare the article headlines in the US newspaper with the article headlines in the UK newspaper
Note that the US newspaper headlines are not even Word Case. They Use the Rather More Difficult to Specify Title Case, Where Some Words have Capitals and Others Do Not (believe me, I have tried to specify it on behalf of an international client).
With Word Case, it is not possible to highlight a word for any reason (e.g. proper noun). Without word case, the opportunity to highlight a word remains. In most situations it does not matter, but it can. The following two sentences look quite different:
Arrival of gardener to support bush
Arrival of Gardener to support Bush
but they would be indistinguishable in Word Case:
There are even some companies that use lower case for the beginning of sentences e.g.

In summary, I support the use of sentence case. However, I think that the assertion that the UK uses word case more than the US is the opposite of the truth. It should therefore be modified in some way (e.g. made more general).

Bobblewik 23:37, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)

That struck me funny when I read it too. Mackerm 01:37, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Changed the title of this section... Rich Farmbrough 16:08 9 June 2006 (GMT).

Laws, Theorems and doctrines

  1. So whats the final word on capitalization for articles on laws and theorems ? Upper case or lower case or whatever the respective page's contributor wishes ? I couldn't find a mention of this in the conventions.
  2. The page says "Most names of doctrines shouldn't be capitalized." Is there no British English vs. American English clash here ? Most of the doctrines I found are capitalized though - Monroe Doctrine, Stimson Doctrine, Truman Doctrine, Eisenhower Doctrine, Brezhnev Doctrine, Carter Doctrine.

Jay 09:12, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Titles of cultural works

User:Topbanana/Reports/This page contains a link that might be mis-punctuated is a Quality Assurance report listing links which may be miscapitalised. Before we sort that list out, I'd assert that unless I have not looked hard enough, the Naming Convention does not provide good enough advice on the format of the titles of cultural works. Which of these three is correct:

  • Jamie and the Magic Torch?
  • Jamie And The Magic Torch?
  • Jamie and the magic torch?

and I suspect others might be hard to call (or not - YMMV)

  • Bailey Bridge?
  • Bailey bridge?

Could I ask for more advice from the community, to cover this issue in Naming Convention, perhaps with some worked examples of the Magic Torch variety. --Tagishsimon

Capitalization includes the normal rules for titles. So without even looking at your links, Screen Test is probably the title of something, while Screen test is probably a description of an acting audition. Keep in mind, some titles have intentionally strange capitalization. Mackerm 17:44, 17 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Thank you, but it doesn't really address the Magic Torch example, and there is a wide spread of normal rules, judging by Topbanana's report. --Tagishsimon

Sorry. Jamie and the Magic Torch and Bailey bridge. Also, I'd change the first word in the bridge article from "the" to "a". Mackerm 21:08, 17 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Main Page

Main Page should be Main page, right? I know this probably can't be changed... but it still bugs me. - DropDeadGorgias (talk) 14:04, Jul 30, 2004 (UTC)

Russian History

What about these articles: Russian Civil War, Russian Revolution of 1905, Russian Revolution of 1917, Polish-Soviet War. Should that be changed? Der Eberswalder 15:37, 13 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Historical events, and even periods are acceptable when capitalized. See American Civil War and The Great Depression. MatthewWilder 19:57, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

How to change an article's title

Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to determine how to change an article's title. I attempted to create Belchertown State School, which is a proper name, but I ended up with Belchertown state school instead. It seems that instructions for editing titles would be helpful to have included with this article on capitalization conventions. -Etoile 21:19, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)

There's a special button for re-naming an article, near the top of the page. Unfortunately, it has the confusing label "move". See Help:Moving a page for details. --DavidCary 07:22, 14 December 2005 (UTC)


Should all of the articles about Canadian parliaments be changed from the style "38th Canadian parliament" to "38th Canadian Parliament"? -Arctic.gnome 01:33, 24 November 2005 (UTC)

Jan Brueghel the elder

Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Jan Brueghel the Elder; I've found a couple more where Elder is capitalized. I'm almost sure it's wrong, please confirm and I'll move them. Piet 15:10, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

If you search for "the elder" there's an long list of elders, but no consensus. Some use elder, some Elder. Which is right? Elder is not a proper noun, so no capital, so I can start moving pages. OTOH, I won't move Philip the Handsome to Philip the handsome. I need opinions here. Piet 15:15, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
I find this title to be similar to John the Baptist and Alexander the Great. These are names and titles that become the de facto reference to the characters they refer to. It would make sense to keep these names consistent by capitalizing all or them or none of them. I would say that if the character is historically referred to with a name such as "{so and so} the Elder" that such is the correct title to adhere to. Though "elder" itself is not a proper name, it is the complete title of the character that is being used. MatthewWilder 20:04, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Proposal for Naming Convention Guideline

Because credibility is a primary objective in the creation of any reference work, and because the Wikipedia strives to become a leading (if not the) leading reference work in its genre, formality and an adherence to conventions widely used in the genre are critically important to credibility. Therefore, although the Wikipedia search engine does not lend itself to the style of capitalization recommended for use in titles by authoritative manuals of style (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style, The Guardian Manual of Style, The Little Brown Reader, and The Harbrace College Handbook), I would like to recommend in the editing guidelines and polices that the "work around" described in the last bulleted item in the second paragraph of the "Case sensitivity and searching" section of Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization) be implemented with the use of "redirects" linking to a page that uses the correct capitalization for all encyclopedia articles. This entails a little more work, but should be adhered to and I would like to recommend this as a guideline or policy for the future.

Therefore, I propose the following statement to be included after the last bulleted item in the second paragraph of the "Case sensitivity and searching" section of Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization): "Because credibility is a primary objective in the creation of any reference work, and because the Wikipedia strives to become a leading (if not the) leading reference work in its genre, formality and an adherence to conventions widely used in the genre are critically important to credibility. Therefore, although the Wikipedia search engine does not lend itself to the style of capitalization recommended for use in titles by authoritative manuals of style (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style, The Guardian Manual of Style, The Little Brown Reader, and The Harbrace College Handbook), the "work around" described in the last bulleted item in the second paragraph of this subsection ("Case sensitivity and searching") should be implemented in order to ensure that article format adhere to industry conventions."

I think that the statement of the reasons for the guideline/policy should be stated so that the reader of the guideline will understand the importance of performing the small amount of extra work to create the redirect page, prior to creating the actual article to which the redirect will be referring. Lottamiata 20:46, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

Capitalizing standardized names for protocols, etc.

In May, 2006, the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) page was moved to "Border gateway protocol". After a long "Requested move" discussion, it was moved back. See the archive of the discussion at Talk:Border Gateway Protocol/Capitalization. I'd summarize the result this way. There was debate as to whether the title was a proper name, and how to deal with the propensity to come up with many different names for terms like "Digital Circuit" or "Digital Electronic Circuit Systems". But since the protocol name itself is nearly always used with capitals, reflecting the widely used acronym, and the name itself is standardized in IETF RFCs (the documents that define how the Internet should work) the majority judged that capitalizing such names of standards is helpful to readers and editors and makes sense. Similar examples are Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol. I'd add some examples of non-standardised, generic terms that probably should remain lower case: interior gateway protocol and Internet service provider (noting of course the standard "I" in Internet, used when referring to the global Internet). --NealMcB 22:53, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Those visiting from Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Style issues, or who are new to the discussion might also want to refer to the introduction and Wikipedia:Requested moves survey results at Talk:Border_Gateway_Protocol/Capitalization#Requested_move --NealMcB 21:01, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

A Few Bits Of Data (AFBOD)

JA: Notice that the "Protocol As Religion" (PAR) subculture, by a "majority" vote of 4 votes to 1 vote, has instituted a subconvention that violates the de facto common practices that are in force everywhere else in WP. For future reference, I'll add some data on this issue. Jon Awbrey 17:50, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

MW: I would harshly disagree with that. What explicitly violates the actual rules for a move is when one person moves a page in a contraversial move, without any discussion. In all fairness, I would appreciate if you add some data on that issue. MatthewWilder 18:18, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: IMWBO (in my worker-bee opinion), it was at the time and still ought to bee a routine move, the sort of decapping that goes on without fuss all over WP on a continual basis. The only thing that makes it controversial is the curious resistance of a peculiar subculture to observing the "Established Protocol Of Capitaliztion" (EPOC) that everybody else observes. Jon Awbrey 18:34, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

MW: To my knowledge, you are the only person that doesn't consider specific standards and protocols to be proper nouns. And that would make this "subculture" everyone except you, and "everybody else" you. MatthewWilder 20:31, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Point 1. A Cure For Acronymania (ACFA)

When showing the source of an acronym or initialism it is not necessary, or desirable to emphasize the letters that make up the acronym:

Incorrect: FOREX (FOReign EXchange) or FOREX (foreign exchange)
Correct: FOREX (foreign exchange)
MW: Though it appears clear to me, you seem to be mistaken as to Neal's argument. The argument is not for acronyms to be capitalized. In fact, if you read NealMcB's comments, you will see that he offers an example of a term that should remain lower case, though it is often represented as an acronym. If you want to argue against the automatic capitalization of all things acronymized (ACOATA), then feel free to do so, but understand that it doesn't mean that anything represented by an acronym should not be capitalized in regular usage. In other words, just because Border Gateway Protocol is a term that has an acronym (BGP) doesn't mean that it should not be capitalized. The appeal to capitalize BGP is based on the fact that it is a well understood, specific, identifiable thing, in this case a standard. This fits the very description of a proper noun no matter where you find that definition from. MatthewWilder 18:28, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: You are arguing that Most Common Use includes most common capitalization, but WP style considerations do not recognize MCU as dictating capitalization. The fact that a large majority of Computer Gamers still capitalize Computer Game does not override common English usage with regard to proper nouns, which Computer Game is not, no matter how you spell it. The WP:MOS principle stated above says that it is neither necessary nor desirable to indicate the acronym by capitals, and yet that will most likely always be a very common practice in the originating sources of these terms, which is one of the reasons that their being capitalized appears, quite artifactually, to be so common. So there is a statistical confound there which needs to be discounted. Jon Awbrey 03:30, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 2. Standards And Protocols In General (SAPIGs) are not proper nouns

JA: Definitions from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

  • common noun. a noun that may occur with limiting modifiers (as a or an, some, every, and my) and that designates any one of a class of beings or things.
  • proper noun. a noun that designates a particular being or thing, does not take a limiting modifier, and is usually capitalized in English — called also proper name.
  • the. 2 a (1). used as a function word with a noun modified by an adjective or by an attributive noun to limit the application of the modified noun to that specified by the adjective or by the attributive noun.

JA: For example, the article titled border gateway protocol begins as follows: "The border gateway protocol …". The word "the" is a limiting modifier. In this case, the is used as a function word before a noun (protocol) modified by an adjective or by an attributive noun (border gateway) to limit the application of the modified noun (protocol) to that specified by the adjective or by the attributive noun (border gateway). In short, border gateway protocol is not a proper noun, as clued by the fact that it takes the limiting modifier the.

JA: Proper nouns denote things that are already as limited as things can be, and so they do not require limiting modifiers to limit their denotation to a particular thing. Jon Awbrey 01:40, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: The limiting modifier argument breaks down with the word "the". This was discussed in the BGP discussion, but it's good to have it here too. If the word "the" is not considered an exception to the limiting modifier rule, then there are problems with:

MW: And again, all of their articles even begin with the word "the" in reference to the subject. Therefore, the limiting modifier argument cannot be used as an argument. Or if you are confident that the argument applies, you can go and break the news on all of those articles I just linked to, and the hundreds (if not thousands) of articles about other subjects referred to with the word "the". MatthewWilder 15:14, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Here you are confusing the use of the word "the" as a proper syntactic part of the proper name of something, for example, The Sun Also Rises or The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, with the use of the "the" as a limiting modifier to make a common noun more specific.

JA: Lexicographic Standards And Practices (LSAPs) vary in this regard, but WP follows one of the more common LSAPs in leaving the "The" in the leading role of the titles of articles and books, but requiring that the expletive "the" be deleted from the official prefixes of most other things, for example, the names of associations, institutions, organizations, religions, and so on. I will look up the reference later and append it here. Jon Awbrey 18:01, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Here are two points of reference for this convention:

JA: Thus, The Kyoto Protocol, as evidenced by the very first words in the preamble to the article, is one of the more familiar names of a document or treaty whose unfamiliar real name continues to remain nameless here, while Kyoto Protocol, strictly construed, is something more suited to serve as the name of racehorse. Jon Awbrey 18:26, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Sorry, but the capitalization of "the" at the beginning of those articles is merely coincidental. In 3 out of 4 of those articles, you will find "the" lower case preceeding the name. It is not possible to prove in the one exception that the word "the" is a lexical capitalization, since it is the beginning of a sentance. As much as I want to see you be right for a change, the use of the word "the" in reference to the Kyoto Protocol is the same as its usage in reference to the Border Gateway Protocol. So, nice try but you fail. Be more sparing in your use of terms and phrases like "QED" and "as evidenced by". It weakens your credibility. MatthewWilder 19:29, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: It has nothing to do with the capitalization of the "the" due to its being at the beginning of a sentence, it has to do with the inclusion of the "the" in the proper name of name of, say, "the Eiffel Tower" — as is evident from the French name "La Tour Eiffel" — no matter where it occurs in a sentence, say, "The dissembled elegants signed the Kyoto Protocol". Here, the nickname of the thing in question is "the Kyoto Protocol", just as the nickname of William Perry is "the Refrigerator" or "the Fridge", where the "the" can be capitalized or not according to whim. (See here). Jon Awbrey 05:38, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Actually, the normal capitalization in French would be "la tour Eiffel". Jon Awbrey 05:54, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 3. SAPIGs are not proprietary names

MW: Nor is the Great Depression. Am I missing something? MatthewWilder 21:07, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 4. SAPIGs are not titles of documents

MW: Again, the Great Depression isn't either. What am I missing? MatthewWilder 21:08, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 5. Isolated Transients (ITs)

JA: The fact that we tolerate a few isolated exceptions for a little while, as in the case of WWW and a few other Widely Worshipped Writs, does not mean that we have to tolerate a whole raft of exceptions forever. Jon Awbrey 19:01, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

MW: I agree with Point 3 and 4 (for the most part). I would have to digest that further and think of more cases, but I agree that in general, standards and protocols are not proprietary names and are not titles of documents (though there are almost definitely exceptions to both of these rules). Point 2 is made with absolutely no evidence at all. Unless you can show that protocols and standards are not things, this point is incorrect. And if they are not things, then what are they? Nothings? MatthewWilder 20:27, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: You are misunderstanding what a proper noun is. Everything is a thing, that is to symbolize, (∀x) Thing(x). A refrigerator is a thing, a bottle of cola is a thing, but putting a bottle of cola in the fridge does not mean you have The Real Thing™ in the Frigidaire™. Jon Awbrey 22:00, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

MW: You are misunderstanding my understanding of what a proper noun is. My understanding is that a proper noun is the name of a particular person, place, or thing. You keep arbitrarily insisting that thing is limited to documents and organizations. However, there is no such implication from the definition of proper nouns. I am arguing that since protocol and standards are things, that particular protocols and standards are particular things. So, I'll ask again. Can you show that standards and protocols are not things? Good luck! MatthewWilder 22:08, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: You state the definition of a proper noun well enough. The operative word in that definition is particular. But your interpretation and hence your application of the definition is riding rough-shoddily over the all-important distinction between particular and specific. A refrigerator is a specific thing. But the Refrigerator is a particular person. Jon Awbrey 01:54, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Do you find a standard such as Universal Serial Bus to be too generic to refer to a specific thing? I myself find it to be quite particular. If someone said Universal Serial Bus, I would know exactly what they are reffering to. If they talked about a refrigerator, that would be too generic for me to know which refrigerator. Of course, there are also exceptions to the particularity rule. My name is Matthew Wilder, but I am not Matthew Wilder. MatthewWilder 15:20, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: That's confusing specific with particular again. USB is no different than RAM. The only difference is the novelty of the former over the latter term, so the marquee effect hasn't worn off some people's eyes yet. The fact is that you know what a person means by the unpacked form of USB whether that person utters it aloud, writes it universal serial bus or writes it Universal Serial Bus. But you only know what type of thing the person is talking about, same as with the fridge. You don't know the Unique Identifier of the physical item, which would be a proper noun. Jon Awbrey 06:12, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: That is not at all confusing specific and particular. USB is much like English (language). RAM is much like a bucket. Unless you are telling me that English is no different than a bucket, then you might want to reconsider that "argument". And in case you don't get what I am saying, allow me to spell it out. There is no confusing what the English language is. It is a very particular thing. So USB is very particular. There might be many devices that employ USB, and even different versions of USB, but that is perfectly paralleled by the many people that speak English, even different variants. Comprenede? MatthewWilder 16:00, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: If you hear a small child uttering the words "universal cereal bus", you'll no doubt smile and realize that he or she has assimilated an overhea(r)d bit of some adult's talk to his or her own conceptual-technological base, but you'll still know the original denotation of the mal-approp in question. But that denotation will be what the Scholastics dubbed a general denotation or a plural denotation, which means that you won't know whether it's a Mac USB or a PC USB that was being discussed in the first place. That's a pretty big bucket'o'bolts. Jon Awbrey 16:26, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Thanks for reading what I said. I said there are different versions of USB. There are also different versions of English. So is English not a proper noun any more? You would take apart everything that you presume to stand for if your logic was applied universally. For instance, if you limiting modifier argument held, then you would have to apply that to the Eiffel Tower, the Great Depression, the United States Declaration of Independence, the Kyoto Protocol and the hundreds or thousands of other such cases. I already debunked that argument 3 or 4 times, and you still use it. And this argument of particularity is also weak. Particularity does not absolutely require uniqueness. My name is Matthew Wilder, but I am not Matthew Wilder. Did you know that Paris and London are actually in Texas, and Ontario. Your idea of particular meaning unique is incorrect. MatthewWilder 18:07, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: To quote you in your own orthography:

There is no confusing what the English language is.

JA: Notice that you did not write "The English Language" (TEL) or even "the English Language (EL), but "the English language". Thus you properly capitalized the proper name of a linguistic community, capitalized in part because it derives from the proper name of some old tribe or nation. Jon Awbrey 04:12, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: You're lucky I don't quote your own orthography more. Anyway, on to disassembling yet another of your pre-conceived notions that flows freely into poor arguments. The word "English" is not capitalized "because it derives from the proper name of some old tribe or nation". Or is there something I don't know about Mandarin (linguistics) and Hindi? In fact, the standard dialect of Mandarin is Standard Mandarin. That doesn't sound to me like it is "capitalized in part because it derives from the proper name of some old tribe or nation." In fact that is a perfect example, because it is not only capitalized in part, but it is fully capitalized. Yet another argument that is incorrect. Since it is evident that you study psychology, you probably know what confirmation bias is. And I am quite sure you have it, "as evidenced by" your continual misinterpretation of information such as the reason for the capitalization of the word "the" at the beginning of articles. If you can't admit that any of your arguments are incorrect, it is time for arbitration to begin. MatthewWilder 23:31, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 6. Data

JA: Here is a list of similar articles that I compiled. Almost all of these phrases were at one time commonly capitalized in standard textbooks and technical literatures and many of them are still capitalized within the specialized linguistic communities where they originated. By WP MoS does not as a rule recognize this type of parochial usage as overriding general English usage. Jon Awbrey 02:54, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Note added later. I have started adding a wider variety of examples, not all of them blessed with acronyms, but ones that bear comparison with many of the more isolated examples that are being raised in this discussion. Jon Awbrey 18:50, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 7. Data analysis

JA: Let me introduce you to my world. I suffer from a condition that I'm hoping will oneday make it into DSM-V or maybe DSM-6 — I'm being perhaps a bit too hopeful in assuming that by the time they get to V, the advance of science will have overcome the current cultural lag in mathematics that has them still using Roman numerals. Anyway, the name of the afflcition is is "Obsessive Logical Order Disorder" (OLOD). So when I surf past some article and see it full of bad puncs or worse, I just can't help ditching my surfboard to stop and correct the mess. For example, what would you do, if you were so unlucky as to suffer from OLOD, if you ran across an article like the one on EBNF? It begins:

The Extended Backus–Naur form (EBNF) is an extension of the basic Backus–Naur form (BNF) metasyntax notation. Originally developed by Niklaus Wirth, the most commonly used variants of EBNF are currentlty defined by standards, most notably ISO-14977.

If the proper, er, right name of the thing in question is "extended Backus–Naur form", then I may consider that capital "E" to be an oversight of some kind, and correct it accordingly. Or maybe its proper, and I do mean proper name is really "Extended Backus–Naur Form", in which case that lower case "f" is the error, and so my duty is to super-size it and also move the article to Extended Backus–Naur Form. But which?

JA: Here's some additional data from the article:

There is an International standard (ISO 14977) that defines an EBNF. This is now freely available electronically as a zipped pdf file from ISO.

The W3C used a different EBNF to specify the XML syntax.

JA: Does any of that help to decide whether the unpacked term corresponding to EBNF is a common noun or a proper noun? Exercise For The Intrepid Reader (EFTIR). Jon Awbrey 05:22, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

NealMcB: That's a good example of a more ambiguous term. But the issue is straightforward. The question is whether this particular article is about the general concept of extended BNFs, or whether it is mainly about a particular thing, e.g. a specific standard. As your excerpts suggest, this one is more an overview of several extended BNFs, so I'd use "extended Backaus-Naur form". The fact that the history of this term is messy, defined in different ways by different standards, would make it harder to use the capitalized form of the name in most any context. This is distinguished from ABNF, which is far less ambiguous and referrs to the IETF standard, which was more carefully named, it seems. Using capitals for ABNF is a service to the reader, signalling this lack of ambiguity. --NealMcB 15:54, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: BNF and EBNF are examples of guidelines, not protocols. According to the guideline article, the difference is that "following a guideline is never mandatory (protocol would be a better term for a mandatory procedure)". These forms are simply "best practices" in how to represent things. That is a guideline, not mandatory for interoperability as is a strandard or protocol. Thus, these examples should be ignored in this discussion, since they don't relate to the question at hand. MatthewWilder 23:42, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Now it's the difference between a guideline and a protocol is it? So a nation that does not sign the Kyoto protocol but says that it will abide by it — well, the citizens of that country can spell it "Kyoto protocol", but citizens of a signatory nation must spell it "Kyoto Protocol". Right. Jon Awbrey 04:14, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: And again, if you're working on a software development project where ISO-14977 is mandated by the contract, then you have to spell it "Extended Backus–Naur Form", but everybody else can save themselves 2 punches of the shift key? Right-O. Jon Awbrey 04:20, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: I didn't say that capitalization of guidelines should be context dependant. I didn't make any judgement on it at all. I simply said it wasn't part or the discussion (which is around standards and protocols). MatthewWilder 15:55, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: The lack of coherent and convincing arguments against the capitalization of standards and protocols, and presence or persistant though disproven arguments leads me again to ask that this go to arbitration. MatthewWilder 23:46, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 8. Precedent?

JA: Does the vote of 4 people on one article create some kind of border gateway protocol protocol that permits Neal to capitalize internet protocols at will? I really don't think so. There is simply no rational justification for saying that Open shortest path first (OSPF) is somehow more a proper noun than First-come, first-served (FCFS), No shirt, no service (NSNS), and a host of similar "protocols", much less why it should be an exception to the "protocols" that the lion's share of the above listed articles follow. Jon Awbrey 02:28, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

Yes, the Requested move discussion identified an existing precedent, which exists within Wikipedia, among the commentators, and in the world at large. The debate was framed that way even before the formal discussion started, with reference to the sorts of standardized protocols of which BGP was an exemplar. Your new analogies fail to apply because people don't generally understand FCFS or NSNS as things that are defined in specific documents. A "protocol" whose definition is inherent in the term itself indeed is not a name, but a common noun phrase. So I have reverted the moves you've made recently, which were clearly controvertial, and which you should have brought up on Wikipedia:Requested_moves before making them in the first place. I'd say the same thing about your efforts to put en-dashes in the default names of certain articles (User_talk:Jon_Awbrey#En-Dash_Protocol_Reigning_Over_Polynominal_Titles_.28EDPROPT.29, which shows a tension between a Wikipedia policy and the results of the brief discussion you cited. There is far more precedent in Wikipedia for capatilizing Interneet protocols than for marking people's names with en-dashes. --NealMcB 20:37, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Speaking of precedent, let me ask you something. Just because you were able to (correctly) argue that that list of articles should be presented in lower case, does that mean you can change any article to lower case that you want? Most of the articles that you referred to are simply not proper nouns. They are just physical manipulations of the materials that we interact with. For instance, a metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor is not linguistically different than a paper clip. One is simply more advanced than the other. Another commonly occuring subject type in your list is general concepts and ways of representing things. For example, first order logic isn't all that different than Chomsky normal form. But back to your question, it wasn't the vote of 4 people that gave him permission to change the other article. It was the evidence clearly presented, showing that protocols and standards that are documented and well defined are in fact proper nouns. As often as I keep looking, there is only one person arguing against that. And that one person keeps arguing the same points, even the disproven ones (accronymania or limiting modifier anyone?) so it is only fair to assume that such a person does not need to be convinced, since they apparently can't be. Everyone else is convinced, so what Neal did is perfectly fine and acceptable. MatthewWilder 16:15, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: The names of SAPIGs (Standards And Protocols In General) are not proper nouns any more than a term like "Technical Report" is a proper noun. For that matter, why is a USB any different than a PHS (Phillips Head Screw} or a PC (Paper Clip)? Anybody in the respective biz's can tell you that these things are spec'd by standards, too. You are simply failing to recognize the applicability of standards of long repute that are recorded in standard dictionary definitions, as I cited at length above. Jon Awbrey 05:56, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: See my explanation above for why USB is not the same as RAM. And as for my failure to recognize your unrelenting use of arguments already disproven, I don't feel I need to abolish the "limiting modifier" argument any more. I asked you why you think a standard and a protocol is not a "thing" and you have continued to fail (quite well) at that. Because your arguments are so circular, and you won't admit the failure of any arguments, though disproven, I suggest that we look toward arbitration at this point. MatthewWilder 16:04, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: You have done nothing to "abolish" the dictionary definitions of common nouns and proper nouns that make use of the "limiting modifier criterion" (LMC) as a "generally applicable partial test" (GAPT). I have already stipulated that SAPIGs are things, as indeed everything is. Is your argument that the name of any thing must be capitalized? That seems x-treme. So the question remains what it has always been from the very beginning: What sorts of things typically have their terms of description properly capitalized and what sorts of things do not? Jon Awbrey 17:38, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: I think it's fair to say that "generally applicable" is not good enough to say "QED" as you originially did in your argument agains the capitalization of Border Gateway Protocol. And I agree with the question that you ask, though you do twist it with something that leads in favour of your cause. Let me point out the offensive word. "Typically". You might even say "traditionally". It's what you were thinking. Traditionally, standards didn't exist, so it's quite obvious that they wouldn't be included in a list of "things to capitalize" in a manual of style from such a "traditional" or "typical" era. So, I find this a leading question, that is "typical" of your arguments to date. After dilligently trying to show you the difference between things like Universal Serial Bus and things like random access memory and how they are much like English and bucket, I have to wonder if you are hearing what I am saying. You fail to recognize that USB is something identifiable. If you want to know about USB, you can see exactly what the standard is (or for the PikiPediacs, what the standards are). RAM has no such definition. RAM is like a bucket. They both hold things, though one holds information. Company X might make RAM (or buckets) one way, while company Y might make RAM (or buckets) a completely different way. It's all up to the designers and manufacturers, so the definition of RAM would be so dynamic and undefined, you might even want to call it dynamic random access memory (DRAM). USB doesn't change like that. It is defined. It is very, very particular. And if you argue that it has to be totally unique, then you should be demanding that I change my name to 23539, since Matthew Wilder is taken. And you should also tell us Canadians to call our language Canadian, not English so that things are uniquelly preserved. And even at that, everyone will have to pretend the there is only one English spoken in the UK. To summarize, your arguments simply don't stand. MatthewWilder 18:24, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: I think that you are basically just saying that anything you want to capitalize should be capitalized for as long as you want to capitalize it and you really don't care about what makes a noun a proper noun or the rules of English or anything like that — that English should change to accomodate your habits. There is simply no good reason for saying that a universal serial bus is a more particular thing than an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or that USB is more defined by a standard than EBNF. Jon Awbrey 04:06, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Universal Serial Bus is not a serial bus. It is a serial bus standard. There is no such thing as "a" "universal serial bus". As for EBNF, I never said whether I think EBNF should be capitalized or not. MatthewWilder 20:47, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: If that's what you think, then it is clear there is disconnect between your thought and reality. I haven't once said I want to change English to accomate my habbits. I have been trying to say that you should change your personal idea of what a proper noun is, since it is incorrect. I have shown it to be insufficient several times. MatthewWilder 15:51, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Point 9. Language, Ruly and Unruly

JA: I am starting a new section to discuss a generic issue that arises from a number of the special pleadings that are being made in this discussion. I will also begin collecting data at this location on a sample of these exceptional, irregular, isolated, and sporadic cases.

JA: We have discussed this issue before under the question of the "Isolated Transient" (IT). It's a well known fact that one of the best ways to be brought to in-utterable despair in trying to learn a new language is to start with the irregular cases rather than with the generic paradigms. First you take up a solid stance in what is truly ruly about a language, the vast topological interior of its syntactic continent, and then you can begin to think about tackling its unruly boundary conditions and border (gateway) wars. Jon Awbrey 17:24, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Let us begin with a critical comparison:

JA: These two terms are similar in name, but in name only. In point of fact the two terms severally denote very different sorts of entities. Why do we customarily capitalize them both? For any reason at all? For the same reason or for different reasons? Jon Awbrey 17:48, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Ummm... because they're both proper nouns that are traditionally capitalized? -GTBacchus(talk) 17:55, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Time for Arbitration

MW: Given that we are no closer to a consensus on the issue of capitalizing protocols and standards, I would like to see this issue go toward arbitration of some sort, if possible. MatthewWilder 01:19, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: I have no idea how to do that in a case like this. If it were a specific article, then I think that the next step is a RfC — no, the other RfC — but I don't know if that applies to a generic issue like this. Jon Awbrey 05:20, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: The relevant info pages for the RfC process seem to be these: WP:RFC and WP:RFC/STYLE. Jon Awbrey 05:32, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: I added an entry at WP:RFC/STYLE. Jon Awbrey 14:22, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: That appears to be the most appropriate method in this case. Thanks for looking into that and adding that entry. MatthewWilder 15:05, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Let me state what I think should come out of the consultation. There needs to be an unequiviocal and easily understandable decision procedure for the question of what to capitalize and what not. This needs to be based on criteria that the average copy editor, acquainted with English but not usually a specialist in some arcane field, can apply on a routine basis. When I brush across some article, I naturally correct what grammatical errors and stylistic infelicities happen to assault my eye, and I can do this without needing to consult some oracle or email Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to make the decision for me. Right now I cannot do this. I have no way of knowing why open shortest path first has recently been rehabilitated by the Capistolic Church and canonized in glorious illuminated capitals. I think it would continue to remain a Mystery to any "non-inner-circle-initiate" (NICI) who examined the case. Jon Awbrey 13:06, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: There already is an unequivocal and easily understood decision procedure for the question of what to capitalize, and what not. And that is the definition of a proper noun. The name of a particular being or thing is a paraphrase of the numerous definitions of proper nouns. A copy editor should be able to discern the particularity of the Great Depression, the White House and the Olympic Games. If they can't, then they should avoid editing copy relating to "some arcane field". As a rule of thumb, a technology would not be particular enough, but a standard and a protocol would be particular, since they are well defined and referenceable. MatthewWilder 19:18, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

A view from a neutral third party: I agree with MatthewWilder's well-articulated position and I applaud his vigorous defense of Wikipedia's integrity and Wikipedia's deference to common usage (which is expressed in many guidelines as the logical result of WP:NPOV and WP:V). From my point of view, object-oriented programming theory is the proper way to draw the line here. The "Universal Serial Bus" is a particular object instantiating the class of objects known as technical standards, while "random access memory" is itself the name of a class definition.
Furthermore, Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not, WP:NPOV, and WP:V clearly imply that Wikipedia can reflect what's going on in the world but cannot be used as a vehicle for trying to change it. Wikipedia is a resource, not a soapbox. Even if Jon has a valid argument that the entire electrical engineering community is going against centuries of English language conventions with its rule of fully capitalizing the names of all Internet protocols and most technical standards, the fact is that the rule has been in place for over 30 years and there are literally millions of pages of documents that follow that rule. No CS or EE professional would seriously contemplate changing it now. Since Wikipedia article names should reflect the most commonly used name, Wikipedia has to use names that are fully capitalized.
It's just like how lawyers have a tradition of writing 2d or 3d instead of 2nd or 3rd. Did I think that tradition is crazy when I went to law school? Of course. But it's been in place for three centuries, so like all other lawyers, I developed the habit of writing 2d or 3d in my legal documents and 2nd and 3rd in documents for everyone else. --Coolcaesar 16:36, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

On the definition of a proper noun

JA: Because the same issue has arisen in the case of several other articles, for example, Demand note and Federal Reserve note, where some of the editors apparently have difficulty reading, comprehending, and applying the dictionary definitions of terms like common noun, proper noun, particular, and the, I think it would serve to do a slow reading of Quotations from Chairman Webster or whatever your favorite dictator may be. Jon Awbrey 14:00, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Again, a satisfactory paraphrase of the definition of a proper noun would be "the name of a particular being or thing". It has been established that protocols and standards are things, so the question of the day is whether or not they are particular. To me, particular implies something that is referenceable and well defined or well understood. It is understood that the White House is the building in Washington, D.C. that houses the President of the United States. If someone brings up the White House in a conversation, the listener should be able to recognise the reference to a particular building. If they don't realise that it is particular, that doesn't mean the White House is not a proper name. In the same way, someone talking about Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the listener should recognise that UTC refers to a particular standard, in this case a time standard. It is well defined, and thus is properly identified as a proper noun. MatthewWilder 20:35, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

As an outsider to this dispute, I'd like to try to paraphrase your arguments, to see whether I'm understanding them. I may contribute a thought of my own, too. MW seems to be saying that proper nouns are capitalized, and that proper nouns are particular instances of types: e.g., there are many mausoleums, but only one Taj Mahal. This general principle in being applied to the particular cases like HTTP, which is a particular request/response protocol. JA's response seems to be that this rule, however ontologically satisfying, isn't universally applied, since first-come, first-served is also a particular protocol, but it's not capitalized, but FIFO is. I think that JA is right that it's not all about ontology, because there do exist particular things that are still not considered majuscule-worthy.
I'm a mathematician, and I can assure you that many theorems listed in Category:Mathematical theorems are particular individuals: there are many fixed-point theorems, but only one Lefschetz fixed-point theorem, and yet, it's not capitalized. Why not? Because that's not what mathematicians do. Even though the Lefschetz fixed-point theorem is a particular thing, there exist different versions of it: Google hands us "The equivariant Lefschetz fixed point theorem for proper cocompact G-manifolds", "the Lefschetz fixed point theorem for simplicial complexes", "a Lefschetz fixed point theorem in Arakelov geometry", "a Lefschetz fixed point theorem for multivalued maps", "the Lefschetz fixed point theorem for elliptic complexes", and on and on. They can't even decide whether to use "a" or "the". None of these particular Lefschetz fixed point theorems is capitalized (or hyphenated, apparently). This illustrates two things: with some objects, it's not entirely clear when you've reached particularity, the bottom of the ontological slide; and also that there exist industry standards that fly in the face of the usual rules of capitalization. By any sane understanding of what a proper noun is, "The equivariant Lefschetz fixed point theorem for proper cocompact G-manifolds" is a proper noun, but mathematicians have chosen not to capitalize such things, and you will not change their minds. You would sooner move the Appalachian Mountains. This point is not entirely in JA's support though - it's also these unarguable industry standards that dictate that HTTP is to conform to the usual capitalization rules. We can't have just one rule for what to capitalize when, because Wikipedia has to reflect reality, where there isn't just one rule for what to capitalize when. -GTBacchus(talk) 17:47, 10 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. You've clarified a number of differences between theorems and standardized protocols, which also motivate the reasons for capitalizing the words in HTTP, but not theorem names. Note that one important factor is that while the theorem itself is pretty unambiguous, the name for it is not. Another test: is that whole theorem name commonly used even from other languages, or would the words be translated? --NealMcB 05:33, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

How Do I Love "The"?

JA: There is apparently some uncertainty that is caused by the presence of limiting modifiers, especially the definite article "the", occurring within phrases that are interpreted as proper nouns denoting particular things. In some cases, for example, The Sun Also Rises, the presence of the word "the" as a part of the proper noun is easy to see, since common conventions and our local style sheet dictate including the "the" right up front in the name of the article.

JA: In other cases, like The Eiffel Tower, The Kyoto Protocol, The Taj Mahal, or The White House, it is not so clear, since our local style sheet dictates deleting the "the" that is necessary to make the designation grammatically particular instead of leaving it grammatically generic. But the fact that the artificially de-prefixed phrase never denotes a particular thing except when the "the" is re-prefixed to it is an indication that the "the" is really a necessary syntactic component of the proper name qua proper. As illustrative evidence of this fact, please look carefully at the titular head of this page — no, the other titular head:

JA: And please pay attention to the seal — no, the one without the fish in his mouth — behind the man in front of the screen:

JA: Like I said before, QED. Jon Awbrey 21:28, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

Please forgive my being so slow-witted, but what have you just proven for us, Jon Awbrey? -GTBacchus(talk) 22:04, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: By way of background here once again are the definitions of common noun and proper noun from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

  • common noun. a noun that may occur with limiting modifiers (as a or an, some, every, and my) and that designates any one of a class of beings or things.
  • proper noun. a noun that designates a particular being or thing, does not take a limiting modifier, and is usually capitalized in English — called also proper name.

JA: The definite article "the" also functions in many contexts as what is called a limiting modifier. The function of a limiting modifier is to take a term that designates any one of a class of things, for instance, the term white house that applies to any house that is white, and turn it into a term that will be interpreted in suitable contexts as denoting a particular white house, for example, The White House in Washington, DC. This jives with the above definitions of common noun and proper noun in the following way: (1) white house is a common noun, a term that many things bear in common, and thus it can appear with limiting modifiers, for example, a white house, my white house, the white house at the end of the avenue; (2) the limiting modifier "the" in combination with capitals, not capitols, is used to designate The White House at the end of a very particular avenue. The proper noun The White House, since its denotation is already limited to a particular thing, is typical of proper nouns in not taking a limiting modifier, as this would result in anomalous constructions like A The White House, My The White House, or The The White House. Jon Awbrey 04:25, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

Who are you talking to? I still have no idea what your point is. I like semantics as much as the next guy, but you said "QED" above. What was proved - can you answer simply? -GTBacchus(talk) 04:50, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: What is evident by inspection of the pages I listed is that the official proper name of The White House is not "White House" but "The White House", as that is what is emblazoned at the top of its official home page and also on the cartouche that is placed behind the podium of anybody who is speaking for and from The White House. The point of this is that the "The" in "The White House" is a proper part of one of the proper names of The White House, much as the "The" in "The Sun Also Rises" is a proper part of its proper name. The significance of this point is that the definition of proper noun given above really does work as it should. In particular, the limiting modifier test really does make sense. Jon Awbrey 05:14, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

So, are you saying the "f" "p" and "t" should be capitalized in "Lefschetz fixed-point theorem", or not? -GTBacchus(talk) 05:42, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Not. Jon Awbrey 20:08, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

How about USB? -GTBacchus(talk) 23:54, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Let me refer to what I said above about what I think should come out of this RFC, namely, a simple set of rules that a non-specialist copy-editor can apply to an article. We have that with mathematical theorems. Despite the fact that many of them are still capitalized throughout in (perhaps older) textbooks, the rule we follow in WP is to capitalize the proper names of people and not the other words in the name of the theorem. It does not take a mathematician to understand and follow that rule.

It would be a disservice to our readership to change the capitalization of hundreds of articles, which the world agrees refer to specific standardized names for protocols, just so nonspecialist copyeditors can get away with following a simpleminded rule. What on earth is wrong with following the ubiquitous practice which helps the reader know that in fact when people use the term Universal Serial Bus, they are signalling that there is in fact a well defined thing which that refers to? This sort of distinction is indeed helpful to readers, and may well be a reason behind the capitalization of names in the first place. You might as well argue that we should drop the use of capitals in people's names also. And I guess you have essentially argued that already, as part of your "Natural Evolution Of The English Language" comment in the original discussion. --NealMcB 04:42, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: You are saying that capital letters should be used to signal any "well defined thing". And you are asking "What on earth is wrong with following the ubiquitous practice?" First of all, it is not ubiquitous, though it almost was in 1734:

  • Berkeley, George (1734), The Analyst; or, a Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician. Wherein It is examined whether the Object, Principles, and Inferences of the modern Analysis are more distinctly conceived, or more evidently deduced, than Religious Mysteries and Points of Faith, London & Dublin. Online text, David R. Wilkins (ed.), Eprint.
In the past you've said[1] you wouldn't change the capitalization of TCP, USB, etc. Assuming you remain consistent on that, there will be enough exceptions that you're going to have a hard time finding a simpleminded rule for copyeditors here. I think it is much easier and better to just stick to the summary statement of the official naming policy: Generally, article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize, with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature. --NealMcB 05:11, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Of course I wouldn't touch them while such a hot dispute is in progress, as that would only "cry havoc", etc. But the point of what I said is that I would not have to fix them personally if there was an effective rule in place, as some other editor would just as easily routinely do it. Again, you refer to the majority of English speakers, as you and Matthew did before, but in the very breath you or he, I can't recall which, said you didn't really care about the rules of English grammar, that you expected those to change to accomodate your habits. And we have already been through the linking issue, but WP rules in other cases dictate minimal caps precisely for this reason. Jon Awbrey 05:38, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

You're defining your preferred "rules of English grammar" in a way that doesn't describe what the vast majority of English speakers do, in this case and many others. Using such rules to make Wikipedia diverge from the rest of the world is not going to get very far. The two dictionaries I use make no mention of a rule about "the": the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993): Proper...of a name or noun: applicable to a particular individual person, animal, place, country, title etc. (and usu. spelt with a capital letter), and American Heritage, Third Edition, (1993) says proper noun: a noun belonging to the class of words used as names for unique individuals, events or places and usually having few possibilities for modification. Your definition also notes the use of capitals. No one disputes that most people use capitals with these terms. So the capitalization itself helps establish these as proper names. The titles of these articles are simply not common noun phrases. They are standardized names for particular interoperable protocols. And that is why they are interesting to most readers. --NealMcB 16:43, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: So help me out here: How should I, the unaided copy-editor, decide what to do about the unpacked version of the acronym USB? Is the phrase "universal serial bus" (1) a proper name? (2) a proprietary name? (3) the title of a document? Of course, that phrase may indeed be used as the title of a document somewhere, but the question is whether it is being used that way in the article in question.

I can answer this one: if you're a copy-editor wondering whether it's "Universal Series Bus" "universal series bus", you'll check around and see how it's usually formatted. If official documents about USB tend to use caps, that's what I'd use; if not, then not. Industry standards trump more general rules. -GTBacchus(talk) 05:41, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: D'oh! Now why didn't I think of that? It sounds so simpson'l when you say it like that! Until you actually do the experiment of course. Which I have. But let's not rehash old data. I happened to be back on the campus of my old Alma Mater this weekend, with an xs of idyll time, so I checked in at the bookstore and looked into what I found to be the 11th edition of Thomas' Calculus (based on G.B. Thomas, revised by M.D. Weir, J. Hass, and F. Giordano, Pearson/Addison–Wesley, 2005), just to see how things are bound to have changed since the edition, for , that I remember. Well, I was literally shocked at what I found — but it's late and I've been on the road all day, so I will just have to wait and report on that tomorrow. Jon Awbrey 03:48, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

I'm on the edge of my seat. What's with the weird conversation formatting around here, anyway? The way the rest of the Wiki does it isn't good enough for ya? -GTBacchus(talk) 03:57, 14 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm also on the edge of my seat. Did they change the definition of proper noun in a way that helps your cause, or are you just going to mention something useless? I am in total suspense. MatthewWilder 15:56, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Because some of these articles have been played with lately, I went wayback to the oldest version in the edit history, here.

JA: Have to break here. Back later. Maybe Tuesday. Jon Awbrey 02:00, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Jon, one thing I think you seem to be getting confused is this. The ability to put a limiting modifier in front of a group of words does not dictate whether that group of words is proper or common. Let me explain. Your fuss with Universal Serial Bus was that someone could refer to "a universal serial bus". Even if people did refer to the conductive paths in a such a way, that reference would not be the same as the reference to the standard, Universal Serial Bus. For instance, the White House is a white house. A large white house, but a white house. The ability to apply a limiting modifier to a group of words does not indicate that the group of words can not be a proper noun. And the White House (being itself a white house) is proof of this. QED. Your argument would suggest that anything that can be expressed as a common noun should not be allowed to be capitalized. Someone should write a kyoto protocol explaining when it is appropriate to kill a mockingbird in a white house. MatthewWilder 16:01, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

Impossible task/Hiding to nothing

To quote JA:

  • "Let me refer to what I said above about what I think should come out of this RFC, namely, a simple set of rules that a non-specialist copy-editor can apply to an article. We have that with mathematical theorems."

Unfortunately, English is not rule driven - it is like the universe - it just is, and theories of the universe are attempts to describe the universe in increasing detail. For a long time Newton's laws were regarded as adequate descriptions, but this turned out not to be the case, and now we recognise that we still have no adequate theory of everything (TOE). In the case of English, the 'rules' of grammar and spelling have been deduced by observation, and there is no rhyme or reason as to why certain things occur: to take a trivial example, examine the rule "i before e, except after c", which is weird, and unscientific - and demonstrates that rules are apparently made to be broken. In the case of capitalisation, I don't think English is susceptible to being broken down into a simple set of rules - there will always be corner cases and exceptions. Most people speak a certain form of English because it feels right, not because they have formualated a rules based grammar.

However, I will posit one possible helpful rule-of-thumb: in technical writing, when referring to a particular instance or instantiation of a generic thing, the particular instance is usually capitalised. So we talk of network protocols, but of Transmission Control Protocol; of serial buses, but of Universal Serial Buses. So, where an article talks about a generic class of things, capitalisation is unnecessary, but when talking about a particular instantiation of that class, capitalisation be used - thus we get 'database normalisation', but 'Third Normal Form'. There are many white houses, but only one White House (in the USA at least). WLD 20:58, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

Concensus Minus JA

MW: It appears that absolutely everybody accept for JA is in agreement that formalized standards and protocols qualify as proper names, and are deserving of capitalization. It also seems that JA is unable to make a convincing argument for his own case. It is unsatisfactory (to me) that we should bend the definition of proper names so that a copy editor with no experience in technical fields can go about decapping anything they don't recognize as a proper noun. Perhaps the most ironic thing is that JA thinks we want to bend English to fit our own "habbits". This isn't a poll, but if someone actually wants to start one soon, that may be useful, as the arguments above are complete (IMO). MatthewWilder 16:25, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

Suggestions arising from this RFC on capitalization

Proposal 1. Check Around

JA: So help me out here: How should I, the unaided copy-editor, decide what to do about the unpacked version of the acronym USB? Is the phrase "universal serial bus" (1) a proper name? (2) a proprietary name? (3) the title of a document? Of course, that phrase may indeed be used as the title of a document somewhere, but the question is whether it is being used that way in the article in question.

I can answer this one: if you're a copy-editor wondering whether it's "Universal Series Bus" "universal series bus", you'll check around and see how it's usually formatted. If official documents about USB tend to use caps, that's what I'd use; if not, then not. Industry standards trump more general rules. -GTBacchus(talk) 05:41, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Abstracting from the peculiar characteristics of the isolated special case in view, can this informal proposal be formalized as a workable general rule that would apply with no significant ambiguity across-the-board in WP? Jon Awbrey 18:38, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Problems with Prop 1. I guess the biggest problem with Prop 1 is that we do not currently follow it, neither within the technical areas pertaining to computers, nor within WP generally, say, in logic and mathematics, just for starters. An Equivocal Policy or an Inconsistent Procedure, that is, a Rule that Institutes a Regime of Unequal Justice under the Laws of Capitalism, well, somebardy said something about "cry havoc", and that is just what we'd have. Jon Awbrey 18:46, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Problems with Prop 1. The "Check Around Rule" (CAR) is the sort of thing that naturally occurs to anybody right off the bat, and we would hardly be having this RFConversation if my initial sorties had met with any kind of determinate results, generally speaking. This is the reason that I started gathering the data in the list above — I have in the meantime thrown in a few wringers just to see if anybody is paying attention, but, yes, it's pretty dull reading. But pick an item at random, go to your shelves, pull down a few standard refs and technical docs on the subject in hand, and see what you get. If your shelves are like mine, the result will be that most phrases deserving of acronyms in any field will be capitalized straight through, and I don't think there's any shock in that, not if your books and docs are as old as mine. But it's just as clear that we do not let that sway WP conventions in most of the other areas, even highly technical areas, of WikiPedia. Jon Awbrey 19:05, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Problems with Prop 1. Chasing the CAR to Thomas' Calculus (11th ed., 2005), we find the following phrases, listed with their capitalizations intact:

  1. Cauchy's Mean Value Theorem
  2. Divergence Theorem
  3. Fundamental Theorem of Calculus
  4. Gauss's Law
  5. Green's Theorem
  6. Intermediate Value Property
  7. Intermediate Value Theorem
  8. l'Hôpital's Rule
  9. Mean Value Theorem
  10. Power Chain Rule
  11. Power Rule
  12. Rolle's Theorem
  13. Snell's Law
  14. Stokes' Theorem

JA: Curiously, though, we have:

  1. Newton's method
  2. Newton–Raphson method

JA: I guess the last two reflect the usual minimization of practice in comparison to Theory.

JA: These examples were taken from body text, not section headings or set-off displays. And I pretend no thorough search, this is just what I had time to jot down in 5 or 10 minutes of idle waiting around. Jon Awbrey 19:28, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

Proposal 2. Is It A Proper Noun?

MW: Plain and simple. Is it a proper noun?

MW: As much as you (JA) argue that a specific protocol or standard is not particular, you do so unsuccessfully. Standards and protocols that are documented are far more particular than the Great Depression. There is a difference between random access memory and Universal Serial Bus, though your determination does not allow you to recognise this. RAM is merely a manipulation of physical materials to accomplish a task, much like a bucket in nature, and linguistically like a paper clip. Universal Serial Bus on the other hand is a particular standard that is well-defined and referenceable. It is far more particular than the Great Depression. And the Great Depression also slips through the camel sized gaps in your fine-tooth comb of a definition for a proper noun:

  • "Is the phrase "universal serial bus" (1) a proper name? (2) a proprietary name? (3) the title of a document?"

MW: Not a single definition of a proper noun requires that a proper name be that of a proprietary name or a document. Those are the misconceptions of an riglidly narrow-minded copy editor unwilling to and incapable of hearing and understanding sound arguments. MatthewWilder 19:15, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: For once a confusion that is easily clarified. That list was not intended to be a list of logical equivalents but a list of logical alternatives, each case of which is one that we routinely capitalize, as for instance (1) Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, (2) Cyberdyne Systems Corporation (CSC), or (3) The Terminator. Jon Awbrey 02:28, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Shortly after writing this, I realized my confusion. Thanks for confirming. MatthewWilder 15:07, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: While were at it, let's all take our meds for The Great Depression (disambiguation), which is another one of those terms that has the "the" as a part of its name, that is highly polysemous, as they say, even with the "the" by which we attempt to limit its denotation, and that only means what we mean it to mean because a particular community of intepreters, interpreting its meaning within a particular context of interpretation, is mentally prepared to get what we mean it to mean. Jon Awbrey 02:58, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: I just showed below that the Great Depression does not contain "the" in the title. Look carefully at the title of the page, and also do a case sensitive search for "the Great Depression". On my behalf, please don't cry when you see it appear 22 times, including every single time "the Great Depression" appears in the title of books cited as references. Now what was it you were saying about being "mentally prepared to get what we mean it to mean"? I am not the one who is misinterpretting the use of "the". MatthewWilder 15:12, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: I don't get what you are saying here, but I think that we have discussed this before. There is a rule in the MoS that says to drop the initial "the" in articles about subjects like (1) the something or other, (2) the Something or Other, or (3) The Something or Other, except when The Something or Other is the name of a document, and maybe some other cases that I can't remember. That's why the "the" does not appear in the title of the article on the Great Depression, even though the "the" appears in front of the string "Great Depression" every time it appears in the body of the article, except for the places where it is used in other main article templates and the category label at the end. The regular use of limiting modifiers in front of that string, say, "a Great Depression", "the Great Depression", "the Great Depression in <insert your country of interest here>", or "My Not So Great Depression", is a clue that the phrase "great depression" is not a proper noun. The fact that the term "The Great Depression" has many, many instantiations, referring to some that occurred in other centuries and also to the more or less distinct economic phenomena that were peculiar to each nation circa 1929, will be clear to anyone who visits the dab page The Great Depression (disambiguation) or who actually bothers to read the article on the Great Depression. Jon Awbrey 04:54, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

The Olypic Games, like the Great Depression have taken place in several countries, but that doesn't keep it from being a proper noun. I don't need to convince you of anything, JA. I doubt there is anyone else here in this discussion who agrees with your extreme idea of proper nouns. If there is anyone else who agrees with JA on this, please speak up. MatthewWilder 15:06, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

A Copy Editor's Outdated Habits

MW: I would like to remind JA that he has accused myself and NealMcB of wanting to bend the rules of English to fit our own habits:

  • "Again, you refer to the majority of English speakers, as you and Matthew did before, but in the very breath you or he, I can't recall which, said you didn't really care about the rules of English grammar, that you expected those to change to accomodate your habits".

MW: I am arguing that the definition of proper noun be upheld as the standard. And you are arguing against the accepted definitions of proper nouns. As some might say, you expect "those to change to accomodate your habits." Your idea of a proper noun being a proprietary name or document is obviously flawed. I should also remind you that you said the following:

  • "There needs to be an unequiviocal and easily understandable decision procedure for the question of what to capitalize and what not. This needs to be based on criteria that the average copy editor, acquainted with English but not usually a specialist in some arcane field, can apply on a routine basis."

MW: Or in other words, you don't care whether the copy editor is correct or not, as long as their habits are accomodated. That's all you are saying by aking that a flawed definition of a proper noun is applied in copy editing. MatthewWilder 21:23, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: My position is that you are simply misreading and misapplying all of the standard definitions of proper nouns. There are relatively simple linguistic criteria and techniques for effectively deciding whether a given noun phrase is functioning as a proper noun, but every time I explain these criteria and techniques to you, you simply fail to recognize their significance. Jon Awbrey 03:52, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Actually, every time you "explain these criteria" I show you counterexamples. For instance, you keep arguing that the use of the word "the" at the beginning of the article about Border Gateway Protocol functions as a limiting modifier, and yet you argue that the word "the" beginning the article about the Great Depression is part of the name. That sounds good, but the article is actually titled "Great Depression". Furthermore, if you search the article for "the Great Depression" in a case sensitive search, you will indeed find it. If you don't have the time, then please just look at the Causes of the Great Depression. There is absolutely no differnece in the way that the word "the" is used in the article about the Great Depression and the article about Border Gateway Protocol, except in your own mind. And Border Gateway Protocol is more of a special case. Something like Universal Serial Bus cannot accept limiting modifiers when being referred to correctly, so you "criteria and techniques" that you apply are not accurate. I have shown that, and that is exactly why I will not recognize their significance. MatthewWilder 15:06, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
MatthewWilder, I'm largely finding myself agreeing with you, but I can't agree that proper nouns are always capitalized, per my example of the Lefschetz fixed-point theorem above. That's a particular thing, right? -GTBacchus(talk) 17:10, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
MW:By definition of proper noun, you are correct. They are "usually capitalized". And to decide whether or not to capitalize a particular proper noun, the most common usage should be referred to. I agree that many example brought from mathematics could be considered proper nouns. However, the names were presented and referred to in lower case, probably because it is difficult to argue that a theorem or a form is a proper noun, and even harder as a lay reader and copy editor to accurately judge this on first sight. Regardless, these should not be used as examples why not to capitalize standards and protocols. Rather, I would say they are examples where most common usage has been applied, and if anything, that only gives more reason to capitalize standards and protocols. MatthewWilder 17:29, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
I guess I don't understand what's difficult about arguing that a theorem, with a particular name, is a proper noun. I also don't see how it gives more reason to capitalize standards and protocols. Why would the habits of the mathematical community have any bearing on that, and is it even a question? Since the standards and protocols people capitalize standards and protocols, we do too. Since the mathematicians don't capitalize theorems, we don't either. -GTBacchus(talk) 17:34, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
MW: You may not understand what's difficult about it, but try arguing with JA. It then goes from easy (past difficult) to impossible. But I digress. The reason why I say it gives more reason is not because of what the mathematicians do, but because of how the linguistics community responds. They accept the usage of the names by mathematicians. And in the same way, they should accept the names of standards and protocols as used by the standards and protocols people. MatthewWilder 17:47, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: The capacity of people to ignore hard empirical data that conflicts with their prior theories never ceases to amaze me. Jon Awbrey 05:12, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

MW: Likewise, the ability of copy editors to blatantly ignore the definition of proper nouns never ceases to amaze me. Their ability to bombard others with hard empirical data (that doesn't change the definition of a proper noun) also never ceases to amaze me. MatthewWilder 15:09, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
C'mon guys, we all know you can snip at each other. I'm curious whether either you can rise above it. JA is correct that usage isn't entirely consistent; mathematics is certainly not the only field in which this will be true. MW, to clarify, are you asserting that Lefschetz fixed-point theorem should be capitalized? I mean, I provided a list of uncapitalized names of theorems, and JA provided a list of mostly capitalized theorems, and frankly, either of us could provide any number of both lists without too much trouble. He's basically saying that the "Check Around Rule" (CAR) is flawed because the "average copyeditor" won't know what to do in the face of mixed usage, which is an industry standard, it turns out.
I think JA wants a clear, determinate algorithm that will always be right. I don't there there exists such an algorithm, and I think that looking for one indicates a deep misunderstanding of the nature of "rules", in language AND on a Wiki. The correct algorithm is something like this:
Capitalize proper nouns, unless common usage indicates an exception. Check around, applying your own judgement if you see mixed usage. Don't worry too much if you get it wrong; someone will fix it. If there's a dispute over capitalization in some article, talk about it, with nobody getting upset, because it doesn't matter much, and come to a consensus. If you can't, solicit broader input. Rinse and repeat.
There's your fool-proof algorithm, JA. The trickiest steps are the parts where you don't worry too much, and the part where you settle disputes by listening and talking. -GTBacchus(talk) 15:32, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
MW: I apologize, JA, and others who have had to put up with it, for my poor attitude. I don't need to resort to shots at others, and I am sorry. In future I will not allow my frustration to flow into unkind jabs.
MW: To your question about my idea of capitalizing Lefschetz fixed-point theorem, I probably spoke too quickly. I simply think there is merrit in examining the question of its capitalization, that is, whether or not it is a proper noun. JA had a good point that there are many variants of many mathematical theorems, and at that, they are subject to change over time. Still, the same is true of English or Mandarin or any other language. What makes those proper nouns? Rather than using theorems as precedent for decapping, I would prefer to question the way they should be presented.MatthewWilder 16:27, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
I guess I'm arguing against the idea of using examples from any one field as precedent for what to do in other fields. It wasn't JA, but I, who pointed out all the variations of the LFPT. You still haven't shown me any reason to think that it's not blatantly a proper noun. -GTBacchus(talk) 17:35, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
MW: I won't show you that these aren't proper nouns, because IMO, most of those theorems are easily proven to be proper nouns. I agree. MatthewWilder 15:59, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
I believe you may have overlooked something. In the case of "the Lefschetz fixed-point theorem", the phrase is most likely a proper noun, but that depends on how it is parsed. For example, if Phil Esposito scored a game-winning goal in a hockey game, a writer might have referred to it as "the Esposito goal", which does not (in my opinion) constitute a proper noun. If I were to write an article about the Lefschetz fixed-point theorem, and for the sake of brevity referred to it later as "the Lefschetz theorem" (assuming no other Lefschetz theorem were referred to in the article), particularly if I were comparing to to some other fixed-point theorem, I might or might not consider "Lefschetz fixed-point theorem" to be a proper noun. This subject is even murkier than it seems. --Michael Richters 15:51, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: I have already given a sample of published usage data from G.B. Thomas that demonstrates that some of the publishers of mathematicians do in fact capitalize the names of theorems throughout. If you have never seen a professor write "Mean Value Theorem" in caps on the board, then I don't know what kind of de-capitalist country you got your education in. Let us then examine a few more bytes of actual usage data pertinent to the statement that "Since the mathematicians don't capitalize theorems, we don't either".

JA: Does any of this tell us about the customary usage of mathematicians? Does any of this tell us what Brouwer or Lefschetz wrote on the board, even when writing English? No, it tells us about the style sheet of the Princeton Mathematical Series in 1949. So the only question here is "What will be the style sheet of WikiPedia in 2006?" Jon Awbrey 14:00, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

Chasing CARS. The Interactive Fantasy Computer Game

JA: Those of you who want to update their copy-editing skills — and who wouldn't? — might want to peruse the dataset that I've been amassing above, and see if you can guess, before chasing the links, what you'll see at the other end, hyper-thetically speaking. Many of the newly added items are culled from dab pages — many of these got their last update at vastly different times from the last update of the articles linked, and so there are numerous discrepancies in the corresponding capitalizations. I know, believe me I know, this can be pretty dull business, so invite a few friends over, supply yourselves with mass quantities of pizza and beer, and place earnest bets on your competing bids as to what the next turn'o'th'card will turn up. Jon Awbrey 17:12, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Envoi. New Fanger Writes And Having Writ ...

Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
With-inne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry been usages.
Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde (1385)

JA: Well, it's been fun folks, but far less funsome duty calls, so it's back to the grinstone for me, fora while. Jon Awbrey 17:08, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

Ya know, there is like 100k of argument here, and it's tl;dr. Here are two cents anyways: USB is a proper noun as Universal Serial Bus, it is the name of a thing, not a thing. So are most techy specs. So keep them capitalized. SchmuckyTheCat 17:32, 18 June 2006 (UTC)

Matters of Capitalization (Revisited)

Not to poke a tiger with a stick, but why does it say that article titles don't follow standard English protocols on capitalization? The English-language articles in Wikipedia are supposed to follow standard English. English is not bound to follow Wikipedia's rules, it's the other way around. It's as if every reputable publication capitalizes but not us. I must echo statements made previously here. If we are trying to make this Wikipedia into a reputable resource of equal standing to print resources we must follow proper English. If we do not, professional chemists will be leery of our chemistry entries, philosophers will derisively chuckle about the entries on philosophy, and so on. The current policy is in opposition to every style manual I know of, what rationale informs this idea? MerricMaker 14:47, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

JA: Like they say, "Three men make a tiger". And I hate to say it, but when it comes to the things that responsible scholars everywhere "derisively chuckle about" in WikiPedia, capitalization will have to take a number and sit down. Jon Awbrey 04:18, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Capitalization of dances

Are there any guidelines related to the capitalization of dance names, like foxtrot, waltz, tango, salsa, ballet, swing, etc.? There's been a dispute about that on the Dance WikiProject for quite some time. Other encyclopedias and dictionaries don't seem to have a standard. We've agreed that dances derived from proper nouns should be capitalized (such as Balboa and Argentine tango) and that the names of performances and choreography should be capitalized (such as Swan Lake and Shim Sham), but what about more common dance names (like waltz and tango)? Also, what about specific dance moves (like swingout and box step)? --Cswrye 17:27, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Prime minister, heir apparent

There seems to be some (now stale, year-old) debate at prime minister and heir apparent about how these articles should be capitalised. (The debate hinging on the fact that in some contexts, these honorifics appear capitalised, such as in Prime Minister John Doe.) If I understand the guidelines correctly, then the proper titles of those articles should not be capitalised, but some editors on the talk pages have disagreed strongly. I suspect there are some similar articles about such titles. Arbor 08:07, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

"Minor" words in titles of creative works

I don't want to aggravate exhausted monitors of this article unduly after the extended debate about technical terms, but there is an ambiguity in the current policy that has an impact on a great many articles and should be addressed, if possible: where does Wikipedia wish to stand on the confusing matter of capitalizing "minor" words in the titles of creative works? This question has been brought up a few times above, but not really addressed.

Three weeks ago, Patrick added the following text to this guideline's introduction:

Titles of books, titles of films, and titles of other works are also capitalized, except for minor words, e.g. A New Kind of Science, Ghost in the Shell

I have just changed it to the following:

In general, titles of books, films, and other works are also capitalized, except for articles (a, and, the) and prepositions and conjunctions shorter than five letters (e.g., to, from, and). Examples: A New Kind of Science, Ghost in the Shell, To Be or Not to Be.

This parallels the specific (and more detailed) statement in Wikipedia:Naming conventions#Album titles and band names. (Its sections on Film titles and Books - literary works say nothing about capitalization, and the related genre articles Wikipedia:Naming conventions (films) and Wikipedia:Naming conventions (pieces of music), are also silent on this matter.) This restatement also seems to me to be more in keeping with (A) IMDb's conventions for films, and (B) actual general practice for our articles on works of art. I (poorly) define the latter as my observation and editing of over a thousand book, film, TV, album, and song articles that may start out with alternative capitalization, but tend to move in the direction of the version I cite.

It would be better to have specific professional style guidelines to cite, but in the absence of such, I'm hoping that this attempt to synchronize WP:NC and this guideline article, and regularize the practice across most if not all similar works of art, in keeping with current, actual title conventions, is satisfactory to most. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 19:59, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

Holy Scripture

This came up on Talk:Biblical literalism. I thought that the word scripture did not need to be capitalized. The other editor cited a dictionary that said it is often capitalized, especially in the phrase "Holy Scripture". A) I think the phrase Holy Scripture is POV and not a proper name for the Bible B) this situation is comparable to the pronouns used with deities. While some outside sources may capitalize them, we don't do that here on wikipedia. Similarly, the Bible should be capitalized, but not scripture. Anyway, I was just wondering what others thought on this issue. Should scripture be capitalized?--Andrew c 21:31, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

When "Holy Scripture" is being used as a synonymous name for the Bible, I suppose it should be capitalized in the same fashion as the Bible. However, I think references to "the scriptures" should always be lower-case. Askari Mark (Talk) 18:44, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Why Arn't The First Letter Of Every Word In A Title Capitalized?

So then the first letter of every word in a section title should be capitalized.???100110100

Articles and section headings are consistent; capitalize the first word and then only proper nouns. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style for the guideline on section headings. I'm not exactly sure where this guideline originated, but since links are case sensitive this guideline makes it possible to include a link to an article in a sentence without creating a redirect with alternate case. -- Rick Block (talk) 13:31, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Proper nouns without a capital

It is becoming a bit fashionble nowadays to omit the capital on a proper noun as a kind of marketing quirk. Instead of Hymn a song would be titled hymn, for example. I think we should add the missing capital. Do we all agree on this? If so, does the MoS need a note to this effect? Shinobu 22:22, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

Could you be more specific? There are indeed marketing uses of initial lowercase (e.g., iPod). There are also songs rendered in lowercase (e.g., Nina Gordon's "tonight and the rest of my life", to pull just one example from a CD I had at hand, a CD whose information is rendered totally in lowercase). These are two entirely different things. The first involves creating a trademark and/or logo that becomes an "official" representation. The second is well-established publisher's (and sometimes artist's) perogative, which is not considered an "official" trademark. For the latter, we have no choice but to adhere to a single consistent scheme for capitalization, just as any publisher would. Otherwise, our articles would be an incredible mess that could never be fully sorted out. For example, consider the following film titles, based on how only a single print of each represented it:
  • the crawling hand
  • THE Black Scorpion
  • Monster A-Go Go
  • "MANOS": The Hands of Fate
  • Teen-Age CRIME WAVE
I can assure you that virtually no encyclopedia, publisher, or library index (in fact, probably not a single one of any of these) records all these peculiarities. Furthermore, I haven't even noted the typestyle variations, or the fact that many prints of films show the titles differently, so that each could lay claim to an "official" version. The same is true of songs, albums, books, periodicals — pretty much anything that can be published. The only reasonable way to deal with this is to choose a practice and stick to it, again like any other publisher. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 01:54, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

Titles in foreign languages

The page is a little unclear as to how to capitalize titles in foreign languages. In Spanish, usually only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Should titles in Spanish use this guideline, or the English one? For example, should it be Pies Descalzos or Pies descalzos? —ShadowHalo 21:27, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm confused; it seems that the result is the same (P... d...) regardless of which convention you use. -- Visviva 05:20, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Titles in English are capitalized except for articles and prepositions (e.g. Laundry Service). ShadowHalo 03:45, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
I think it's preferable to keep the native capitalization: it's hard enough to decide what's a preposition and what's a conjunction in English, let alone other languages that our editors are less familiar with. See 12e Régiment blindé du Canada for an existing article that uses French capitalization rules. Indefatigable 13:49, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Proposal for foreign language titles

I got two definitive responses when I asked the question, the affirmative in the above section and a negative on my talk page. So obviously this guideline needs to be changed since it addresses the issue very poorly, if at all. Essentially, I propose that we use the same rules for foreign language titles as we do for English language titles, for example Día de Enero rather than Día de enero. There are many articles formatted with both versions, so either way, there'll end up being pages moved to conform with the decision. My reasoning, though, is that having a different convention is visually confusing when going from page to page, especially when dealing with bilingual topics. For example, it'd look sloppy to have alternating uppercase and lowercase titles at Shakira#Discography. ShadowHalo 21:30, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

I agree with Indefatigable above; it's too much to ask for contributors to be able to tell articles and prepositions in every conceivable foreign language. However, it's also too much to expect contributors to be familiar with Spanish or Flemish or Russian capitalization conventions. Instead, we should just recommend that the capitalization used in the sources be followed. If I'm writing an article on the Jaunde-Texte von Karl Atangana und Paul Messi, I shouldn't be trying to figure out what to capitalize and to leave lowercase on my own; I should be deferring to my authority on the subject, namely, Frederick Quinn, the source of the information. — Brian (talk) 22:45, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree as well. It's difficult for an editor to learn them, even by Googling, since even the native capitalization norms are as inconsistently followed as they are in English. Askari Mark (Talk) 00:26, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
Using the capitalization from the source itself often doesn't work because of the fact that sources (in any language) will often use weird capitalization for the sake of design. How about using the capitalization commonly found in English sources? ShadowHalo 00:39, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
That's in essence what I meant. It sounds reasonable to me. — Brian (talk) 03:58, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree, with the exception that articles, prepositions etc. remained uncapitalised as usual. Extraordinary Machine 21:15, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
But then we're back to trying to guess what is and isn't a preposition in the target language, though. I mean, if I were to write an article on a book of Swahili poetry, I wouldn't have a clue what word meant what. — Brian (talk) 22:32, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
Oh, I only meant if we knew what words in the language are prepositions or whatever. Extraordinary Machine 21:38, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
While the source itself may feature modified case for the sake of graphics, often looking to how it is referred to by other sources can clarify the norm. In printed matter such as books, you can also check the copyright page to see how it is given there. Askari Mark (Talk) 22:22, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

Job titles

What's the guideline on job titles? Are they considered titles, like the titles of books or films, or are they merely noun phrases? I recently moved Assistant Stage Manager to assistant stage manager, because it's used as a descriptor (see, for example, the use in Peter Davison, which says " His first job was as an actor and assistant stage manager at the Nottingham Playhouse.") A user at Talk:Assistant stage manager disagreed with the move. What do people here think? —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 00:38, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

It should probably be Assistant stage manager. The first letter should be capitalized unless it's written lowercase at the beginning of a sentence (e.g. iPod, eBay). However, the rest generally should be lowercase since the article should be about assistant stage managers, not about the word's uses as a title. ShadowHalo 00:41, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
Since assistant stage manager and Assistant stage manager are always the same page in MediaWiki, I tend to use the two interchangeably. Anyway, thanks for reinforcing my feeling that Assistant Stage Manager was wrong. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 06:01, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

Four letters or fewer

I've raised this question at Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions#Capitalisation. The "four letters or fewer" condition was inserted without consensus (or even much discussion) a few months ago, and I've aked for consensus before it's reinserted. It could be discussed here as well, I suppose, but I thought it better to cut down the threads (there's also a needlessly acrimonious debate at WP:AN/I). --Mel Etitis (Talk) 11:08, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

Lower case sponsorship of stadium

Priestfield Stadium, home of Gillingham F.C., is to be known from 1 June 2007 as the krbs Priestfield Stadium. Why the sponsoring building society wish to reduce their initials to lower case is unclear, but that is what has been announced. Will Wikipedia software and indexing allow for a page to be called krbs Priestfield Stadium? Trying that redlink leads to a potential new page "Krbs Priestfield Stadium", and having one initial capitalised and the rest not strikes me as even uglier than the sponsor's preference for all lower case. Kevin McE 23:35, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

If you move it to Krbs Priestfield Stadium, you can add {{lowercase|title=krbs Priestfield Stadium}} to the very beginning of the article. See Wikipedia:Technical limitations#Lower case first letter for more information. ShadowHalo 03:55, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

All caps official title for film, ideas?

Question for anyone watching here: How does the capitalization naming convention apply to titles of things that are in all caps, such as JIM IN BOLD (it's still titled at Jim in Bold since I didn't want to move it without policy to back my decision). JIM IN BOLD is the official title of the film. I suppose we want it to be at the official title with redirects. Thoughts? --Rkitko (talk) 22:43, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

  • See my proposal below, which spookily enough I just wrote without even having read your post! Matt 01:08, 23 April 2007 (UTC).

Proposed fundamental change to MoS function

I propose that the text

"In general, titles of books, films, and other works are also capitalized, except for articles ("a", "an", "the") and prepositions and conjunctions (e.g., "to", "from", "and"). Examples: A New Kind of Science, Ghost in the Shell, To Be or Not to Be."

is changed to read

"Titles of books, films, and other works should be capitalized exactly as in the original work."

Matt 01:04, 23 April 2007 (UTC). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 02:09, 23 April 2007

That goes against the main point of a Manual of Style, which is to give consistent usage. It's thus out of keeping with other Manuals of Style, and raises all sorts of silly debates in many cases about which usage is the original. In a fairly fatuous debate at WP:AN/I a while ago, the majority of those taking part misunderstood the point of the MoS in exactly this way, claiming that it should be followed except where it went against the original usage (which, of course, means that it's completely pointless), and I was shouted down; I hope (I'm pretty confident, in fact) that that won't happen here. --Mel Etitis (Talk) 13:27, 23 April 2007 (UTC)
No. If the article title is just an English description then a manual of style can tell you how to capitalise it. If it is the name of a work then it's a proper noun. By definition the capitalisation is as in the original work, and a MoS cannot possibly override this and make it something else. Matt 13:37, 23 April 2007 (UTC).
And BTW, it's not terribly courteous to change the title of a comment to give it a spin that the author did not intend, and that others will naturally attribute to the author. I am not proposing anything "fundamental". It's just a common-sense suggestion that titles of works should follow the capitalisation that the original author gave them. I've changed the title back. Matt 13:47, 23 April 2007 (UTC). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:47, 23 April 2007

The anon misunderstands the nature of titles, the way that capitlaisation is handled in all publications, and the status of the section heading. This isn't merely a change to wording, it's a fundamental change in the way that the MoS (any MoS) works. It shouldn't be disguised under a misleading header (that's the spin, if anything is). --Mel Etitis (Talk) 21:26, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

  • Look, as I have asked you before, please do not change change this comment title to make it look as if I am intentionally proposing a "Fundamental change to the MoS". If you think it's a fundamental change then that is of course your opinion, and you are of course quite free to say so in your response, but please do not attribute that description to me. I do not change your comments to make it appear that you said something you didn't. Thank you very much.
Now, if the title of a book is physically printed on the cover as "Man On The Moon", then probably not many people are going to be bothered if the article is titled "Man on the Moon". However, if the title is for some deliberate reason "mAn On ThE mOoN", then the title of the article should clearly be "mAn On ThE mOoN". This is the main point of my proposal. Matt 11:23, 24 April 2007 (UTC).
... in which case, a better solution might be to insert the words:
"However, if the author of the work has deliberately used an unusual or distinctive capitalisation style to achieve a particular effect, then the title should be capitalised as in the original work."
Matt 12:29, 24 April 2007 (UTC)
  • It really is best not to change the section header. It's accurate enough as it is. Regardless, the benefit of readability far outweighs the benefit of using works' varied and often bizarre stylizations for...what, accuracy? ShadowHalo 13:55, 24 April 2007 (UTC)
Yes, for the sake of accuracy. As I said before, the title that an author has given to a work is by definition what the work is called. No manual of style can override that. If you want an analogy, think of a AmE work cited in a BrE publication. The BrE style guide may say to use -ise, but if the title as given by the author uses -ize then it cannot be changed. I do take your point about readability, but I wonder if there might be some confusion here. This guideline is only talking about article titles, right? If a work has a deliberately unusual and distinctive capitalisation style then I do believe that the article title should reflect this, even if in the main text this has to be relaxed for the sake of readability. Matt 21:02, 24 April 2007 (UTC). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 21:02, 24 April 2007

First, as I explained, this is a proposed fundamental change in the MoS; calling it a change to the text might be innocent, but it's nevertheless misleading. Headers are no more sacrosanct than is the typography of book titles.

Secondly, typography changes; many, many works have different typography now than they did when they were first published. Typ[ography is rarely the choice of the author, and manuals of style recognise this. Spelling, grammar, etc., are treated more circumspectly (though even they change over time), but typography is treated as the choice of the publication. Take the music magazine MOJO, for example; it gives all titles without capitalisation or inverted commas, and capitalises every word; the original typography on album covers, etc., is irrelevant (and in any case, it often changes from reissue to reissue, depending on current fashion). Other magazines have their own conventions, which also override whatever the record company chose to do. The same is true of books. Typography goes through fashions; sometimes the fashion is to use capitals throughout, sometimes to capitalise all nouns, sometimes to capitalise everything that isn't a preposotion, article, etc., sometimes to use all caps (plucking a book of my shelves: Tacitus The Histories — OUP prints this as "TACITUS THE HISTORIES" on the cover, but "Tacitis The Histories on the title page).

The use of capitals underwent a major change in the seventeenth century, when printers (not authors) started capitalising every noun, sometimes every important word; then the fashion changed back (but private journals and manuscipts show that non-printers continued using lots of capitals for some time after the printers had stopped). This is why the words "god", "christ", etc., are usually capitalised nowadays &mdash the mid-seventeenth fashion stuck in those cases (and the nineteenth century fashion for capitalising "he" and "him" when used of god was also the work of printers, not authors).

The myth of the "real", "true" typography of titles is widepread, but itis largely just a myth.

Thirdly, Matt, could you sign your comments with four tildes (~~~~) please? It'll save me adding {{unsigned}} every time. --Mel Etitis (Talk) 22:13, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

  • I am not going to engage with your comments while you persist in changing the title that I gave to my proposal to reflect your own personal point of view and express your opposition to it. This is unacceptable. Matt 22:54, 24 April 2007 (UTC).