Proper Names

Q. I have a place nickname question. When referring to Ellis Island as the “Golden Door,” would you cap the term and place it within quotation marks, as you suggest for people names? Also, would you use this same style throughout a paper for multiple usages? Say, for instance, if you indicate that the “Golden Door” swung open for certain groups of people but not others?

Q. How are recipe titles treated within text? Do they use uppercase? Quotation marks?

Q. I know that ship and vessel names are italicized, but what is your criterion for determining what is a ship or vessel? I thought the idea was that the thing could carry people, but I must be wrong, because you set the Phoenix Mars lander in italics in your example. Are artificial satellites such as Sputnik set in italics? How about things like the International Space Station or the James Webb Telescope?

Q. When I’m writing a press release with different bird species, should they all be capitalized or only the specifically named bird? Example: The common birds include rufous hummingbirds, Steller’s Jays, ravens, varied thrush, mountain bluebirds, red crossbill, ruffed grouse, spotted and barred owls, and many more.

Q. Blonde, or blond? I was taught that the adjective is always blond —a blond woman. And blonde (noun) describes a woman who is blond—the pretty blonde lounged by the pool. But can blonde also be used as an adjective? Her hair was blonde?

Q. “Smart phone” or “smartphone”?

Q. Hi, Style Experts—I’ve found the discussion on indexing in the Chicago Manual (15th ed.) very helpful. Still, I’d like to ask if you could recommend a book specifically on indexing names. We’ll be creating name indexes that will include people of different nationalities. Thank you very much.

Q. In CMOS (16th ed.) chapter 8 (“Scientific Terminology”), I have read that one should italicize the genus name of an organism even without its species name written. Like the example in 8.119: “The Pleistocene saber-toothed cats all belonged to the genus Smilodon.” I am a BS biology major and have been taught not to italicize the genus name if it doesn’t have a species name with it or an sp. for unspecified species. Since the current guide the company I am in uses 16th edition, do I have to write/type every genus name in italicized form? I am currently copyediting a book for grade 7 teachers and I have seen genus names such as Micrococcus, Diplococcus, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Bacillus, Proteus, Spirillum, Thiospillum, and Vibrio.

Q. Hello from Poland! While I have never actually seen CMOS (there is no copy in the US Consulate Library in Poznan where I live), I have seen it mentioned as an authority everywhere. I am now working on a project that requires automated identification of persons and would be grateful to know if CMOS addresses the question of translating given names. When and where are they translated and when do they remain in the original language? Are there any rules in English for this? Of course, one knows the most obvious cases such as Karl Marx and Charles the Bald, but many other cases are not so obvious. For instance, Russian princes are usually named Yuri rather than George. I shall be most grateful for any tips/suggestions.

Q. I am editing an article for publication. The author is discussing a Yiddish tale entitled Simkhe Plakhte. The title is also the name of the central character in this tale, and the author also uses it as a genre, as in “the basic narrative elements of the Simkhe Plakhte tale.” Should “Simkhe Plakhte” be treated as a title and italicized, or is it used as a general term? In general, if a writer uses the title of a folktale as a genre, does it need to be treated as a title?

Q. We are in a quandary over the surname Humphries. Per Chicago, all proper names ending in s form the plural by adding es. Thus Humphrieses. I argue that Humphries is the same whether it’s one Humphries or many—that is how most of us say it, and this conforms to the way we treat other nouns ending in ies. This name is used hundreds of times in this particular novel, usually in dialogue, and often in the possessive, both singular and plural. Should the plural forms be Humphries and Humphries’, or Humphrieses and Humphrieses’? Help!

Q. I have a question related to proper names and varying scholarly conventions. I am editing a volume on Jews in the medieval Middle East and have to make some final copyediting decisions. The standard convention for Arabic names is to transliterate rather than anglicize (Ibrāhīm, not Abraham; Muḥammad, not Mohamed; Isḥāq, not Isaac; Sulaymān, not Solomon). But for Hebrew names, the convention in Jewish studies until a few decades ago was to anglicize (Abraham, not Avraham; Japheth, not Yefet; Isaac, not Yizḥaq; Solomon, not Shelomoh). This raises problems of consistency.

Now that English-language readers are accustomed to foreign-sounding names, anglicization seems outdated. I have stopped doing it in my own writing. But will transliterating Hebrew names alienate authors accustomed by long habit to anglicizing them, or readers who search the scholarly literature for Shelomoh ben Yizḥaq but find only Solomon ben Isaac? And in the short term, should I impose transliteration on my authors who anglicize?