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While reading through this question another occurred to me. If a headline reads

British PM says no to inflatable cars.

Is British a noun or an adjective? Granted, there are other noun forms of British but how about French in

French PM says yes!

The example from the original question quoted

Yemen PM Escapes Assassination

Since the adjective for the people of Yemen is Yemeni, this is clearly a noun adjunct. However, in those cases where the noun and the adjective forms are the same (British, French, Greek, Italian etc.) as in the example above, are these adjectives or nouns? They can be taken as either.

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    You seem to be kind of looking at this ‘upside down’, as it were. The nouns and adjectives are not the same for ‘British’, ‘French’, ‘Greek’, ‘Italian’, any more than they are for ‘Yemeni’. The noun is the name of the country (Yemen, Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy), and the adjective is the derived form. All these adjectives can be turned into nouns _if necessary_—that goes for ‘Yemeni’, too: “The Yemeni are a proud people with an overwhelming tendency towards sand in their shoes”. Sep 1 '13 at 15:16
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This is just headliner confusion. British is virtually always an adjective, not a noun. The noun is Britain. But headlines of late have been using the shorter noun forms, as in Spain court in lieu of Spanish court. I wouldn’t recommend it outside of headlines, if even there.

Be that as it may, we aren’t going to start calling British, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese “nouns” just because their corresponding noun forms are now getting used as noun-adjuncts in headline English.

One example of British as a noun might be:

We haven’t seen many British around here lately.

Although another is:

We haven’t seen many Britishers around here lately.

Neither of those is particularly well thought of. In writing, Briton is usually preferred:

We haven’t seen many Britons around here lately.

But that can of course be misheard in speech as:

We haven’t seen many *Britains around here lately.

Which is one reason why it tends to be shorted to the casual:

We haven’t seen many Brits around here lately.

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  • That's my point. Since the word can be either and we agree that Yemen in Yemen PM is a noun, why is British an adjective in British PM? Perhaps British was not the best example, consider French PM where there is no alternative noun form.
    – terdon
    Sep 1 '13 at 15:11
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    Because all adjectives can be nominalised. ‘British’ is no different there. It only becomes a noun when we force it to; i.e., when we give it nothing to modify. Here, it modifies something, and there is no reason to assume that an adjective has been nominalised only to be used as a noun adjunct. Occam’s razor would have a word or two to say about that, at least. Sep 1 '13 at 15:14
  • @terdon We aren’t going to start calling British, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese “nouns” just because their corresponding noun forms are now getting used as noun-adjuncts in headline English.
    – tchrist
    Sep 1 '13 at 15:15
  • @JanusBahsJacquet both you and tchrist make good points. Yet the dictionary does list these as nouns. Still, I think you're right and I'm nit-picking, Occam's razor applies. Thank you both.
    – terdon
    Sep 1 '13 at 15:26
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    (1) You say "The noun is Britain". Actually the noun is Great Britain or the United Kingdom (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britain). (2) Britisher is not actually used by the British. It's given as AmE or old-fashioned BrE (chambers.co.uk/search.php?query=Britisher&title=21st, oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Britisher?q=britisher). (3) Briton is rarely used in BrE except in the context of ancient Briton (Celtic people living in S.Britain before/during Roman times) (chambers.co.uk/search.php?query=Briton&title=21st).
    – TrevorD
    Sep 2 '13 at 9:39

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