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I live in a small town called Barrie.

Which noun is proper – town or Barrie?

I answered Barrie and the examiner marked it as wrong.

And another one:

Last night, I watched the movie My Cousin Vinny on television.

In this sentence, is Cousin a proper noun or a common noun?

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A proper noun is a name. You were correct to answer Barrie. "Cousin" is not a proper noun in the title given (although "Cousins", being a surname, can be a proper noun in the right context).

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    "Cousin" can be used as a proper noun even if it's not a surname. For example, "Hey Cousin, come over here". More common is "Why isn't Dad here yet?". – tenfour Oct 22 '11 at 14:38
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    @tenfour, I disgree about "cousin". I would write your example as "Hey, cousin, come over here"; the lower case being a strong indicator that it isn't a proper noun. "Dad", OTOH, when unqualified ("your dad"), I agree about. – Peter Taylor Oct 22 '11 at 18:43
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    My Cousin Vinny as a whole is a proper noun, since it's a name (of a movie), but not My or Cousin individually. (Vinny is intrinsically proper, though.) – Daniel Oct 22 '11 at 20:28
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    @David Schwartz, "cousin Vinnie" can be a proper noun without "cousin" being a proper noun. – Peter Taylor Oct 22 '11 at 20:52
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    I know of no town to which I have given my name. There is, however, a town called Barry in Wales. – Barrie England Jun 25 '12 at 18:55

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