Q. How is capitalization handled in questions of ambiguous geographical origin? I’m trying to rationalize the advice in chapter 8. Is it “German shepherd,” on the grounds that the term refers to the putative geographical origin of the dog, or “german shepherd,” in the same way that you have “swiss cheese” and “french dressing” on the grounds that the term is nonliteral, meant to evoke recall of a geographic place irrespective of the actual origin? (If this is confusing because German shepherds may originate from Germany, what about Australian shepherds, which have nothing to do with Australia whatsoever?)
A. CMOS can list only so many examples, and it’s no good wasting time pondering fine distinctions, so if your document uses some terms that Chicago lowercases and others you aren’t sure about, rather than agonize over possible inconsistencies, just look up the words in a dictionary: CMOS lowercases french dressing and swiss cheese, but Merriam-Webster uppercases them (along with Australian shepherd and German shepherd). Make your choices with a view to minimizing inconsistencies, and record them in your style sheet.