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I am confused by the rules for how common nouns can be converted into proper nouns.

For example the word "lake" is a common noun. Yet the common noun "lake" can be part of a proper noun. For example the Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Sevier Lake, and Rush Lake.

When looking at the noun "stress" the same thing does not appear to happen. For example the Kirchhoff stress, the Biot stress and the Jaumann stress for a few examples. Why is the "stress" component of the examples above not capitalized? Are they not part of a proper noun?

Even more confusing is the "nominal stress", where neither words are capitalized. Am I correct in thinking that the above examples are not proper nouns but are capitalized as they are named after people? If so are they classified as common nouns?

  • When lake is used as a reference to a particular location, it becomes a geographic name which is almost always capitalized in English. – bib Jan 5 '17 at 13:22
  • It's the same with maneuver and law, for example – FumbleFingers Jan 5 '17 at 13:57
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No, the rule holds. Per the definition from dictionary.com

proper noun

a noun that is used to denote a particular person, place, or thing

Therefore the rule holds in the following ways:

  • lake - This is not a particular place, lakes are common, lake is a common noun, not capitalized.
  • Great Salt Lake - This is a particular place and so should be capitalized. The fact that "Lake" is used within the place name is not so much a noun as simply the choice of the person who named it.
  • Kirchhoff stress - Kirchhoff is a person, a proper noun and so is capitalized. "Kirchhoff stress" is a measure and so should not be capitalized, however the "person" component of this measure remains a proper noun, names of people are always capitalized.
  • nominal stress - This is a measure of force divided by area. This is neither a person, place or thing and so would not be capitalized.
  • stress - this is neither a person, place, or thing. This would not be capitalized unless you turn it into a proper noun by accurately naming your first child "Stress".

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