Proper Names

Q. Hello, this question is in regard to paragraph 8.54 of the Manual. One of the examples of a generic term for a geographic entity is “the Hudson River valley.” I was wondering why “valley” is not capitalized, despite being part of the proper name. I am most likely just missing a really big point here, but it feels like the equivalent of saying “the Grand canyon.” Thank you so much for your help and your time!

A. The unstated point of CMOS 8.54 is that words like “valley” aren’t automatically considered part of a proper name. Life would be easier if usage never varied, but it does. To take another example from 8.54, the Thames is often referred to as such or, more specifically, as the river Thames (not the Thames River). So in Peter Ackroyd’s Thames: Sacred River (London: Vintage Books, 2008), it’s “the river Thames” (or just “the Thames”). But a search at the UK government’s website shows a preference for “the River Thames.” Who is right? Paragraph 8.54 supports Ackroyd’s usage, but the main thing is to be consistent. As for the Hudson River, the valley is often referred to as the Hudson Valley (or, yes, the Hudson River Valley), but in its article on the Hudson River, Encyclopaedia Britannica refers to “the Hudson valley.” Britannica’s article is using the word “valley” descriptively, and you can think of paragraph 8.54 as giving you permission to do the same—especially where preferred usage may be in doubt.