Posted by: Jack Henry | July 2, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Capitonyms

Recently, I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The main topic for most of the audience was Mount Everest, but the main topic for me was a new word he introduced when talking about Sherpas, a Tibetan people, and sherpas (lowercase “s”) the people that help mountain climbers on their treks up the mountain. Oliver said Sherpa was a capitonym: a word that changes its meaning when capitalized.

Here are some other capitonyms I found. For a more complete list, click here.

Capitalized Lowercase
Alpine: of or related to the Alps alpine: (adj.) relating to high mountains; living or growing in high mountains; (n.) an alpine plant
Arabic: of or relating to the Arabic language or Arabic literature arabic: (gum) arabic, also called gum acacia, a food ingredient, arabic numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9)
August: the eighth month of the year august: majestic or venerable
Cancer: 1. a constellation and astrological sign. 2. a genus of crab. cancer: a class of diseases.
Catholic: relating to the Catholic Church (usually the Roman Catholic Church) (adj.); a member of that church (noun) catholic: free of provincial prejudices or attachments; universal
Earth: a planet earth: the dry land of this planet
Ionic: relating to Ionia or to a style of classical architecture ionic: relating to (chemical) ions
Italic: of, or relating to Italy italic: pertaining to a sloping typeface or font
March: the third month of the year march: to walk briskly and rhythmically
Marine: member of the United States Marine Corps marine: something produced by the sea
May: the fifth month of the year may: modal verb
Mercury: a planet; the messenger god of the Romans mercury: chemical element number 80 (symbol Hg)
Mosaic: pertaining to Moses mosaic: a kind of decoration
Nice: a location in France nice: pleasant
Pole: a Polish person pole: a long thin cylindrical object; various other meanings
Reading: the county town of Berkshire, England, or any one of 17 populated areas in the United States named after it reading: gerund or present participle of the verb to read, meaning to decode text or other signals.
Scot: a native of Scotland scot: a payment, charge, assessment, or tax
Scotch: from or relating to Scotland, or a form of whiskey scotch: to put an end to (especially rumors)
Turkey: a country in the Middle East turkey: a bird, often raised for food
Western: relating to European culture western: of the west or relating to western films or television programs

Courtesy of John Oliver’s Everest Photo Page

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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