This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Nuts and Bolts: capitonyms.

What's the point of having both upper and lower case letters?

The Chinese, for example, get on perfectly happily with just the one case.

Well, the thing is that having two cases of letters is rather like having trousers: it's awkward to dispense with them once they've become a habit.

Every year, for instance, I'm disappointed when I realise that the  posters about the large and exciting 


aren't advertising a knees-up for book-lovers, but a pop shindig in the English town of Reading (as it happens you pronounce it Redding).

Reading is a capitonym, which is a word with different meanings depending on whether it starts with a capital letter or not.

If the capitonym begins a sentence, or happens to be written all in capitals, then this distinction of meaning disappears and confusion reigns.

But never mind, a sign proclaiming MARCH FOR DAFFODILS provides an opportunity for harmless wonder; as does an advertisement for AUGUST HOLIDAYS. (Would an august holiday include the services of a butler, one asks oneself? Would it take place in a seat of royalty?)

I may have catholic tastes, for instance, but I don't necessarily have Catholic ones. I may not be very pleased to find myself walking on earth in my stilettos, but I'm always relieved to discover that the Earth is beneath my feet.

Enjoying fish and chips (if you're English) is conservative, but not necessarily Conservative (the Conservatives are a British political party).

A Cuban heel is not to be depended upon; but a cuban heel will support you from dawn to dusk and back again.

Something Ionic looks, and perhaps is, Greek; something ionic can come from more or less anywhere in the Universe.

And don't even get me started on french polish...

Word To Use Today: a capitonym. This word is a joining together of the word capital with the suffix -onym, which means word or name.




  1. Eddy is a capitonym - not that I spell it like that, as it provides me with a devastating riposte to those that say "Wasn't it stoopid of your parents to name you after a circular current of water!"

    Also, if ever I become emperor, I'm going to name my capital Capitonym. Can you guess why ... ?

    1. You clearly have the cunning of an emperor, Eddie.
      From now on whenever I see a strange perturbation in the river I shall think of you.