1. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Pet Names

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AmyHolt, May 30, 2012.

    I've gotten conflicting thoughts on this and can't seem to find the offical ruling. If a character uses pet names (baby, sugar, love, woman, sweet pea...) do you capitalize them or not? Especially if the character uses different pet names to refer to the same person. Does the rule change if they start to use the same pet name to only refer to one person?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if the pet name is being used in dialog, or narrative the same way an actual name would be, then it should have a capital...

    the CMS seems to go against traditional wisdom, says they should always be lower case, so it may come down to individual preference, when such things come up agin an editor's eagle eye...

    your thoughts, everyone?
     
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  3. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just instinctively, I wouldn't capitalise. I'm not sure why.

    I've seen variations though, so I suppose it does come down to personal preference.
     
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  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My first inclination would be to capitalize it because it is being used contextually like a proper name.

    On the other hand, I can see the CMS's point - if in contrast, I were using a denigrating label, I wouldn't capitalize that:

    "Hey, asswipe, haul your worthless carcass over here."

    Still, when Joe Morelli calls Stephanie Plum Cupcake in Janet Evanovich's novels, it is capitalized.

    I guess I would say if the pet name is personal enough, like a name largely reserved for that person, it deserves capitalization:

    "Come over and relax, Huggy Bear. I'll take care of the dishes in a minute."

    But if it's just a generic label handed out indiscriminately, leave it lower case:

    The construction foreman whistled at the tall, sharply-dressed brunette. "Yo, baby, gimme some sugar, I like your loose caboose."
     
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  5. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the help. Thanks goodness for the find and replace feature in Word. It'll make it tons easier to fix this. Too bad I couldn't convince my character to just stop using the pet names (they are sort of annoying, but that is the reason he uses them).
     
  6. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    In my opinion, once a pet name becomes capitalized, it's a nickname :)
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ Good point. Personally, I'd say you should capitalise the pet/nick name if it's the name the character usually goes by (even if s/he has another name that crops up occasionally, e.g. at school when a teacher is speaking to the char) but otherwise I would tend not to capitalise.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The difference between a pet name and a nickname is that a nickname is a name anyone who knows the person would call him or her, but a pet name is associated with a closer, more intimate relationship.

    Both are used in a proper noun context, and as long as that is true, they should b e capitalized.

    The same names applied generically wouldn't properly be called a pet name or a nickname. In those cases, they are acting as common nouns, and should therefore not be capitalized.

    Sugarplum would probably be a pet name. Anyone other than her husband calling her that would probably get a faceful of knuckles, and rightly so! That's his pet name for her. On the other hand, if her name is Kathryn and her nickname is Kat, it's probably okay for anyone other than the IRS auditor to call her Kat. That's a nickname.

    The guy who stands on the corner calling every curvy woman who walks by "babe" or "chica" is using neither a nickname nor a pet name. He is using it as a common (some might even say vulgar, which actually means common) noun. No capitalization.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could have a short story or novel where there was a lot of dialogue with a husband and wife, say, and maybe the actual name of the character isn't identified, in which case it would be best capitalised.
     
  10. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    This is the case I have. The guy uses the pet names to refer to any girl. Then as he falls for one particular girl he starts to only use them with her but it's sort of slow process. I think by the end of the story the pet names could be capitalized but since through the entire rest of the story the pet names shouldn't be capitalized I believe I will opt to not capitalize through the entire story.

    I really appreciate the feedback on this issue. It's been very helpful. :)
     

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