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Is it colloquial to use a proper noun as an adjective if there isn't a corresponding proper adjective? Going further, is using an acronym/initialism as an adjective okay/formal? I'm trying to prove why a specific sentence bothers me so much, and if it's not technically correct English, that'd be why. I know you can say "the HTML tag" and I can't think of a better way to say that, but my coworker wants to use IRS as an adjective describing different emotions and it just bothers me!

An answer is totally fine with me, but a nice linked source would be awesome. My googling skills are just off today. Thanks!

  • Why would it not be? Nouns can routinely be used adjectivally, and proper nouns, including acronyms and initialisms, are nouns. The NASA moonshot was successful. They can also be used adverbially to modify adjectives. An IBM inspired [or IBM-inspired] methodology – bib Dec 14 '15 at 19:33
  • Hello, Melinda. If you search for 'attributive noun' here, you'll soon discover that very few people would call the premodifiers in 'football manager', 'strawberry jam', 'travellers cheques', 'England team', 'BBC listings' ... 'adjectives' (though they obviously modify the nouns they precede). But one needs to check on individual usages. Here is a relevant one: 'IRS Privacy Policy Regulations'. That seems to license the usage. Check for other examples including IRS. And for other examples. 'Wood leg', for instance, isn't used. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 14 '15 at 19:37
  • What emotions? – Brian Donovan Dec 14 '15 at 19:43
  • You may well also come across people who insist that IRS is an initialism but not an acronym (because the letters are enunciated separately). There are conflicting definitions, and nobody to say who's wrong (well, nobody who has the authority to do so). // I'm assuming 'IRS' is short for the obvious here; it is multi-use – eg 'Indiana Railroad System'.) – Edwin Ashworth Dec 14 '15 at 19:44
  • Gosh all of this makes a lot of sense, those are great examples. "IRS frustration" still bothers me though. – Melinda Dec 14 '15 at 19:49

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