A recent workplace conversation prompted this question. Red Hat, the software company behind a popular Linux distribution, came by the office and everyone got some random trinkets, including a number of red baseball caps with the company logo on it.

This led to some amusement about the right way to describe these items, in text and in speech.

"I see you're wearing your [x] today", where x is:

  • Red "Red Hat" hat
  • "Red Hat" red hat
  • "Red Hat's" red hat
  • something else?

Is there a rule for these kind of duplicated words?

  • 1
    I vote for #1: Red "Red Hat" hat. It seems to be in the correct order in terms of adjectives, from least specific (red) to most specific "Red Hat". – Kristina Lopez Jun 3 '15 at 18:35
  • 2
    No, there are no rules for this. Names come from their context, and whatever your speech community decides to call it is correct. In speech, the self-embedded case would be grammatical, but very hard to understand until one gets the joke. One could always use the Indonesian custom -- in Indonesian reduplication is a kind of plural, so words like kurakura 'turtles' gets written kura2. – John Lawler Jun 3 '15 at 18:40
  • Glad to know my subscription fees go to a good use. – Val Jun 3 '15 at 19:45
  • Does the company give out anything other than red hats? If not, adding the color is silly. "I see you're wearing your Red Hat hat today". The only reason to repeat "red" is in the case someone has multiple Red Hat hats... a blue one, a green one and a red one, for example. – Catija Jun 4 '15 at 5:46

"Red Hat" does not belong in quotations.
The phrases:

Red Hat's red hat
red Red Hat hat
Red Hat red hat

are all perfectly grammatical. This is a case where English does not have strict word order rules, so you might convey slightly different shades of meaning depending on which you choose: Whose' red hat? Red Hat's red hat. Which of their hats? The red Red Hat hat. What kind of red hat is it? It is a Red Hat red hat.

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