I'm writing story-generating software. One specific story involves a farmer with a variable name. I'll use "John" as an example. For a "folksy" or "old-timey" or "child-targeted" sound to the story, I always refer to the character as "Farmer John" instead of just "John."

Starting sentences, it's clear that the "F" in "Farmer John" is capitalized -- but I'm unclear whether the "F" in "Farmer John" should be capitalized mid-sentence as well.

E.g. which of these is correct, and why?

Martha sees Farmer John building a barn.

Martha sees farmer John building a barn.

My doubt is because in the context that I'm using "Farmer John", it feels as though the entirety of "Farmer John" is a name/pronoun, therefore both words deserving capitalization -- but I can't claim anything other than a gut feeling to legitimize that.

  • Yes; I'm fairly sure that 'President X' has been addressed here before (a title needing capitalisation throughout), but 'Farmer X' doesn't seem to carry the same gravitas. However, Tolkien capitalised 'Farmer Giles' consistently. Nov 5, 2022 at 20:18
  • 1
    As did Hardy with Farmer Oak. The relative prestige of presidents and farmers depends on where you were brought up.
    – Dan
    Nov 5, 2022 at 21:04
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    As well as Brer Rabbit, Friar Tuck, and a whole host of other titles (or pseudo-titles, or whatever you’d like to call them). Capitalizing is common. Nov 5, 2022 at 22:15

1 Answer 1

  1. Martha sees Farmer John building a barn.

  2. *Martha sees farmer John building a barn.

To be correct, the second should be

Martha sees the farmer, John, building a barn.

You are writing it and have chosen the name of the character as "Farmer John" - as opposed to say, "John Farmer" or "John Smith".

Its a name - it's capitalised.

  • The term "proper noun" suddenly popped into memory from the recesses of my brain in which it lay dormant. Is "Farmer John" a proper noun in this context, and is that the reason both words can be treated as a name, thus deserving capitalization?
    – StoneThrow
    Nov 6, 2022 at 1:01
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    Yes, an occupational identifier is treated like a name and is therefore a proper noun. AFAIK the children's character Postman Pat is always capitalised. Nov 6, 2022 at 8:20

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