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Which one of these is the correct usage:

1) Your favourite Japanese restaurant

2) Your favourite japanese restaurant (being an adjective in this case, it should be in lower case)

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  • 5
    In English country names, and their associated adjectives and languages are always capitalised. In some languages, such as French, only the country name is capitalised - the language and people are not.
    – WS2
    Feb 24, 2016 at 10:49

5 Answers 5

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Generally speaking, nations and nationalities are capitalized. This is always the case with things, like cuisine or history, that are closely associated with the the country. Thus Japanese cuisine (not japanese cuisine) and Chinese dynastic history (not chinese dynastic history).

There are a small number of exceptions, when the item described has a more remote connection. Thus

We'll use the good china

(not "the good China") to describe porcelain or vitreous dinnerware. And

japanned furniture

(not Japanned furniture) to describe black lacquered furniture. Opinion is divided on whether to capitalize english to describe the spin of a ball.

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  • What is an "english spin of a ball" - I've never heard it before?
    – WS2
    Jul 19 at 21:13
  • How about "dutch courage", or "french leave"? Or "welching" on a bet. I'm not sure whether we capitalise those or not.
    – WS2
    Jul 19 at 21:15
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In English country names, and their associated adjectives and languages are always capitalised.

In some languages, such as French, only the country name is capitalised - the language and people are not.

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  • In French, Spanish, German, and, I'm sure, in many other European languages, adjectives in general are all lowercase.
    – aabeba
    Mar 29, 2019 at 12:02
  • @aabeba I thought German capitalised even more than English.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 29, 2019 at 14:22
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    Yes, @Lawrence, it does. It capitalizes all Nouns. But it does not capitalize any other Words at all (except for Sie "you" to distinguish it from other Meanings of the same Word). Thus what aabeba said is correct. In Fact, it means German has no Need to distinguish between proper Nouns (or other Parts of Speech) and common Words at all. Mar 29, 2019 at 15:20
  • @DavidRobinson Thank you, that’s very helpful. I can see the same pattern now in English work translated from German.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 30, 2019 at 0:11
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As per the capitalization rules set out in GrammarBook.com

Rule 2. Capitalize proper nouns—and adjectives derived from proper nouns.

Examples:
the Golden Gate Bridge
the Grand Canyon
a Russian song
a Shakespearean sonnet
a Freudian slip

In any Grammar book it shall be clear that sentence #1 – "Your favourite Japanese restaurant" – is the correct usage.

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According to guidelines in the Chicago Manual of Style, the point of capitalising an adjective is to convey the literal relationship to the proper root noun. So, if you're trying to say that the food comes from there, or the restaurant is in Japan, or is staffed by Japanese persons, or is owned by a Japanese owner, or anything that literally ties it to Japan in a material way, it's appropriate to capitalise the adjective. If you're simply describing the style of the cuisine, a lower-case adjective is acceptable.

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    Sorry? "We're going to have japanese-style food"? Really? In what variety of English is this acceptable? Can you corroborate that assertion with a quote from CMOS?
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 29, 2019 at 21:37
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Japan (the country) is capitalized. And the adjective form Japanese.
Japanese (the language) is capitalized.
But japan (the hard black varnish) is not. Which means it is legal to use in Scrabble!

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  • I've never heard of "japan" being used to describe lacquer... Sounds wrong to me as Japanese-American 😕
    – Hush
    May 8, 2019 at 3:28
  • It's a very well known and named form of finish applied to furniture. Also, there is a type of finish used on screws called black japanned. I guess it's not something you might come across if you aren't involved with the trades that use the screws or if you deal in antique furniture. I am British and it might surprise you to know that we don't use the same language to describe how we would like our eggs done. 'Over easy" is nirvana description the vast majority of English people would understand. "Divided by a common language" is a phrase often used to make this point. Japanese lacquered furni
    – Mark
    Jan 19, 2021 at 2:31

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