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Say we pick a city, NotLondon. Now assign a nickname, "NotLondon, the city of tears", tears being a metaphor for rain. Should these be capitalized? Should the word 'the' be capitalized? I think it counts as a proper noun, in which case the answer would be yes.

New York: the Big Apple seems obvious to me (although it seems 'the' is not part of the nick name as it is not capitalized), but when using words to describe a city rather than naming it (the city of tears), I'm not so sure. The description is its nickname.

English is not my native tongue, so please explicit with grammar references.

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A word or group of words {such as “Noah Webster,” “Kentucky,” or “U.S. Congress”} that is the name of a particular person, place, or thing and that usually begins with a capital letter

is a proper noun. --Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

That would include nicknames.

Articles preceding such are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence, following the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition:

the Eternal City
the Windy City

If an expression is used merely to describe a city, they would not generally be capitalized in prose or under "sentence style".

  • Your examples helped illustrate it quite well. My initial conclusion is correct then; NotLondon, the City of Tears, by virtue of being a proper noun despite being its description as well depending on the use in a sentence. – Benny Bottema Mar 5 '15 at 12:05
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    If it's a description, no. It gets tricky if you think of it as a nickname. Even if it's not recognized as one by others, I think it gets capitalized. If I ddcided to call you Vegetable Head, then that's my name for you, and it's a proper noun. – Jim Reynolds Mar 5 '15 at 13:28

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