5

Does this recipe call for Cheddar cheese or cheddar cheese? Does pizza have mozzarella or Mozzarella on it? Heck, I'm not even sure if this sandwich contains Swiss cheese or swiss cheese.

Is there a convention here, or is it a matter of taste? Does it depend on whether the word was originally a proper noun ("Cheddar"), a proper adjective ("Swiss"), or something else ("bleu")?

6

Most writers do in fact capitalise Camembert...

...but usage isn't consistent. I'm not an expert with NGrams, but I think this chart suggests people are less likely to capitalise strong Cheddar when it's followed by the word cheese (i.e. - if the word "Cheddar" in isolation is used as a noun, we tend to capitalise; if it's an "adjectival" usage modifying the word "cheese", we don't).

Obviously certain types of cheese (Boursin, for example) are "trademarks" owned by specific producer companies, so they're much more likely to be capitalised in all contexts.


TL;DR: There's no particular "rule" - or if there is one, it's not consistently applied.

  • I’ve always found that String Cheese Incident is normally capitalized. :) – tchrist Aug 3 '14 at 13:38
  • @tchrist: I’ve always found that if I say something like "I think String Cheese Incident are a capital band" people give me funny looks! (But I do think they're good, especially in the "extended jam" live performances. :) – FumbleFingers Aug 3 '14 at 14:24
  • Now that you mention it, cheese and jam are not wholly antithetical to each other. I’ve had some lovely concoctions with some sort of soft cheese on the bottom followed by a layer of jam atop. – tchrist Aug 3 '14 at 14:30
2

'Proper names are capitalised' doesn't really help much here, as it merely pushes the question back a little: 'Is C/cheddar a proper noun/adjective in C/cheddar cheese? At all times?'

The fact is that there is a process known as 'genericisation' (see this thread) in which once obviously proper nouns etc become assimilated into the general lexicon. Thus we 'hoover the carpet with a hoover'; the Hoover company were probably aghast to see their name applied to other manufacturers' products.

Essentially, one can only check in individual cases. Be aware that the Biro company threatened litigation against people using the uncapitalised four-letter word.

  • 1
    Interesting to note: "bic" in America is interpreted as a generalized name for a lighter, but here in Belgium, "bic" is assumed to refer to a ballpoint pen (even though both America and Belgium sell both the pens and the lighters, all of which are produced by the same company called Bic). The usage of these generalized names seems vary from culture to culture, and the impact on the region's language seems like an indirect consequence rather than a direct one. – Flater Sep 12 '17 at 14:48
2

Cheddar is a place in England. Cheddar makes cheese. It is therefore Cheddar cheese. Kentucky is a place in the US. Kentucky makes bourbon. It is therefore Kentucky bourbon. There is no sensible reason for NOT capitalizing Cheddar.

The example of bourbon whiskey is mischosen, since bourbon is named for Bourbon County, Kentucky. If all foodstuffs named for places are to be capitalized, then "Kentucky bourbon" should be "Kentucky Bourbon," yet as the previous commenter's post itself demonstrates, it is not always so rendered. One sensible reason for NOT capitalizing Cheddar (or Bourbon) might be that it has ceased to be conventional to do so.

1

Proper names are capitalized. That generally includes trademark and copyright names - so-called brand names. It also includes most "official" bodies, such as government institutions. It also includes names of people and animals.

A company can also prefer to capitalize some name it uses that is not trademarked or copyrighted (this includes some brand names). But whether others follow suit when using that name is less likely than in the case of a trademark or a copyright.

Look up proper name for a complete definition. You can also google for rules of English capitalization, which include when and whether titles are capitalized, for instance.

Cheese is not special in this regard (as far as I know).

0

Cheddar is a place in England. Cheddar makes cheese. It is therefore Cheddar cheese. Kentucky is a place in the US. Kentucky makes bourbon. It is therefore Kentucky bourbon. There is no sensible reason for NOT capitalizing Cheddar.

  • 1
    Do you Hoover the carpet, or buy Cologne? Dictionaries would not capitalise here. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 11 '17 at 14:38

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