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'Germanization' of English?
Thread poster: Robert Rietvelt

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:18
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Feb 24

Maybe a stupid Question (sorry I am Dutch), but is it just me, or is it a Trend (already a long Time) to write English Substantives with a Capital Letter, just like in German? Like the Word 'Manager' for Example, but also 'Shop'.

When I started as a Translator back in 2003, it was written as 'manager'. Now I hardly receive a Source Text where this Word is not written with a Capital 'M'. Same goes for many other Words.

I checked the Oxford Dictionary, and the right Spel
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Maybe a stupid Question (sorry I am Dutch), but is it just me, or is it a Trend (already a long Time) to write English Substantives with a Capital Letter, just like in German? Like the Word 'Manager' for Example, but also 'Shop'.

When I started as a Translator back in 2003, it was written as 'manager'. Now I hardly receive a Source Text where this Word is not written with a Capital 'M'. Same goes for many other Words.

I checked the Oxford Dictionary, and the right Spelling still is with a small Letter.

I do understand the use of Capitals in proper Names, but it looks to me that it happens at random. What are the Rules? Are there any Rules?

Is this correct English? I am just curious. Could somebody please explain it to me?

Thank you.

PS) Please forgive me the wrong use of all the capital letters, I just wanted to emphasize the issue.
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Emanuele Vacca
Chris S
 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 11:18
Russian to English
+ ...
Not exactly Feb 24

Robert, what you are observing does indeed happen, but it's not a general trend. It is very much American and predominantly occurs in the corporate world, especially in the names of positions and subdivisions. If anything, the UK has an opposite trend: acronyms are no longer written in all capitals.

Baran Keki
Emanuele Vacca
Korana Lasić
 

Alex Ossa  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 06:18
Member (2017)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on whether it's a proper name Feb 24

Hi Robert,

If the text is referring to a job position, then it's capitalised because it's considered a proper name and proper names carry capitals. So for example you could stylise your name as:

'Robert Rietvelt, Translator'

When a formal text refers to this position, it might still carry a capital because it's referring to a specific (though possibly unnamed) position. So for example in a job posting or a contract for a translator, you might see:
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Hi Robert,

If the text is referring to a job position, then it's capitalised because it's considered a proper name and proper names carry capitals. So for example you could stylise your name as:

'Robert Rietvelt, Translator'

When a formal text refers to this position, it might still carry a capital because it's referring to a specific (though possibly unnamed) position. So for example in a job posting or a contract for a translator, you might see:

'The Translator's responsibilities include...'

However when referring to translators in general, let's say a Wikipedia article, it is incorrect to capitalise because it is not a proper name, just a regular noun:

'The general public often does not understand what goes into being a translator, and when they are looking to hire a translator, they may, unwittingly, be specifying their needs incorrectly.'

For the business setting, it is common to see some words capitalised, the intention being the same as that of the positions:

'The Company's Culture has been outlined in its Business Plan as a fundamental Pillar.'

Now, although it doesn't look great and I personally might dissuade the company from being quite so lavish with its capitalisation, it's not actually incorrect, just a bit ugly.
- The Company is referring to itself as a proper name alternative to its actual company name. It could easily refer to itself as 'the company' but a) it might feel it's giving the impression that it's referring to another (any) company, and b) it helps it sound more important with a capital C. It's an alternative to saying 'I', in a sense.
- The culture is capitalised for the same reason, it's being considered a proper name. It's not just any culture, it's this particular Culture as defined in a specific place under the title: Culture.
- The Business Plan is the name of a document, therefore capitalisation should occur, although it could easily be omitted without any loss of comprehension as a business plan is a well-understood noun and tends to change often-ish. It just looks more 'important'.
- The Pillars are a strategic element of the company that is also officially defined, under that title, just like its Culture (or culture 🤷). Again, it could easily not be capitalised with no loss of comprehension, but it looks more important with a capital.

It is not unusual to use capitals in titles (eg, of reports), and although this is often frowned upon by us linguists, it's not technically wrong (a title is a sort of proper name, too). I usually change capitals in reports and academic papers because I find it looks inelegant, but there are exceptions to this.

In conclusion: I have not seen a trend towards (more) capitalisation in English, other than what already existed. Sometimes capitalisation is used incorrectly, and there are some people who are always capitalising their words (particularly in a business setting) but I would not consider that a trend but rather the norm. Often there is a good reason for using it, but then it gets overused and it ends up looking like German. As optional capitalisation in English should emphasise, when everything is emphasised, nothing ends up being emphasised, so I urge my clients to reserve it for special occasions.
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Mohamad Alayoubi
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Korana Lasić
Alison Jenner
 

Alex Ossa  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 06:18
Member (2017)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oh and assessing your own capitalisation... Feb 24

The optional one (ie, not Dutch, English, Oxford Dictionary, etc) that might actually stand is:

- Rules (I mean, they'd be written down somewhere under the heading Rules, right?)

And, depending on the context, Manager and even Shop might stand when talking about a particular manager (person or position) or shop - but if you handed me a text containing these it's quite possible I would improve the style and remove the capitalisation.

The others (not substant
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The optional one (ie, not Dutch, English, Oxford Dictionary, etc) that might actually stand is:

- Rules (I mean, they'd be written down somewhere under the heading Rules, right?)

And, depending on the context, Manager and even Shop might stand when talking about a particular manager (person or position) or shop - but if you handed me a text containing these it's quite possible I would improve the style and remove the capitalisation.

The others (not substantives, but nouns) would be considered incorrect.
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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:18
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@ Anton Feb 24

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately it also still happens in UK texts.

The problem with this trend is that non-native autors, who think they can write English, are copying this style. Apart from the terrible English, they also use CAPITALS for all the words they consider as important.

It is like a pandemic, to keep it actual.

[Edited at 2021-02-24 23:27 GMT]


MollyRose
 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 12:18
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Compensation Feb 25

I come across this quite a lot in technical texts that are sent to me for editing. Words may be capitalised quite arbitrarily, so a Word may be written with a capital in one paragraph, but the same word will appear in lower case in the next, or even later in the same sentence, as here.

When this happens a lot, the text is quite often poorly written and contains questionable logic. So I've come to the conclusion that it's a kind of orthographic inferiority complex. A writer who lack
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I come across this quite a lot in technical texts that are sent to me for editing. Words may be capitalised quite arbitrarily, so a Word may be written with a capital in one paragraph, but the same word will appear in lower case in the next, or even later in the same sentence, as here.

When this happens a lot, the text is quite often poorly written and contains questionable logic. So I've come to the conclusion that it's a kind of orthographic inferiority complex. A writer who lacks confidence in the material (s)he is presenting may be trying to compensate by overusing capitals in a subconscious attempt to make the text seem more emphatic and impressive.

You can take this just as seriously as you like. However, I'm not kidding when I say that the overuse of initial capitalisation is a red flag for me that always raises suspicion of the reliability of the content.
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Chris S
Barbara Carrara
Dr. Matthias Schauen
Alex Ossa
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Cultural issues Feb 25

Philip Lees wrote:
So I've come to the conclusion that it's a kind of orthographic inferiority complex.

I have read this thread with interest. I have regular problems with clients not understanding the difference between "Director" as a title of a specified individual or individuals and "director" used to refer to role in a non-specific manner.

Another potential cause is that some cultures with different writing systems simply do not use capitalization, so people from those cultures almost never have deeply ingrained sense of where and when capitalization should be used in English. The result is that capitals tend to be used rather haphazardly.

Regards,
Dan


Zibow Retailleau
Korana Lasić
Robert Rietvelt
Alex Ossa
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It's Worse Than You Think Feb 25

It's Worse Than You Think: There's One User Of These Forums (Do I Need To Mention The Name?) Who Has Decided That Every Word Must Be Capitalised.

Chris S
Barbara Carrara
ipv
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 11:18
English to Croatian
+ ...
US English Feb 25

In addition to the already mentioned reasons, this may also happen when an author wants to stress the word for whatever personal or contextual reasons, this is in American English. Or when the word is important in the context.

[Edited at 2021-02-25 08:58 GMT]


 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 12:18
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Other linguistic influences Feb 25

On a related topic - not "Germanisation" as such, but other kinds of "foreignisation" - I've noticed a growing tendency over the last decade or so towards the use of participles rather than relative clauses. So instead of "patients who undergo cardiac catheterisation", I see "patients undergoing cardiac catheterisation". In most cases, the slight difference in meaning isn't critical, so it's more of a stylistic thing.

I was wondering if this might be the influence of speakers
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On a related topic - not "Germanisation" as such, but other kinds of "foreignisation" - I've noticed a growing tendency over the last decade or so towards the use of participles rather than relative clauses. So instead of "patients who undergo cardiac catheterisation", I see "patients undergoing cardiac catheterisation". In most cases, the slight difference in meaning isn't critical, so it's more of a stylistic thing.

I was wondering if this might be the influence of speakers of Asian languages whose verbs do not conjugate, writing scientific texts in English and opting for constructs that are closer to their native language. This then spills over into the writing of native English speakers who don't write their own language especially well.

Another shift I've seen over the same period is the abandonment of the conditional "might have". This extends beyond technical texts into journalism and even sports commentaries: "If Murray's drop shot hadn't hit the net cord he may have won that game, and the set", where I would say "... he might have won that game ...". This one is quite prevalent nowadays, but I don't know if it's a foreign language influence or just a spontaneous mutation.
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Zibow Retailleau
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
It’s complicated Feb 25

+1 for bad writing. But also we don’t have any actual rules in English. So how you capitalise and punctuate is largely individual and boils down to taste.

I think the Capitals Thing comes from legal writing where seemingly the Vendor and the Deliverables and even less hideous Terms have to be capitalised to avoid confusion by People With No Brain.


Kevin Fulton
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:18
French to English
Legal texts, particularly contracts Feb 25

It is not unusual for terms ofidentifying rôles to be capitalised in legal documents, particularly contracts ("Party", "Vendor", etc.) but it is far from compulsory. I admit that obviously, the odd typo may slip in, particularly when people are posting using a phone for example. However, when I see professional native-speaker linguists failing to capitalise the personal pronoun "I" in English, my toes curl!

[Edited at 2021-02-25 10:30 GMT]


Christine Andersen
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
The odd type Feb 25

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:
the odd type may slip in

Quick, lock your doors, Mr Bean is on the prowl!


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ha ha Feb 25

..... obviously the odd type may slip in....


I see what you did there. Very clever.

Or is it Muphry's Law again ?

[Edited at 2021-02-25 09:19 GMT]


Chris S
 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:18
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Legal Feb 25

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

It is not unusual for terms such as "Party", "Vendor", etc. to be capitalised but it is far from compulsory.


Indeed. A real pain in the ***. Also, I have yet to encounter a contract where the author (after having gone to great lengths defining and making a distinction between the capitalized and the normal forms of nouns) hasn't made their efforts futile by occasionally using the wrong form. I dare say they might be better off just doing away with this practice altogether.

It's also bothersome for us German translators, as we need to introduce a different means of differentiation, such as using italics for nouns that are capitalized in the source text. But what if the source text uses italics as well...?


Chris S
 
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