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Old 12-30-2015, 04:36 PM   #1
dr_mabeuse
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Simple Grammar Question: Captain or captain

When directly addressing the captain of a ship in a dialog, say, is it Captain or captain?

"Hello there, captain!" or "Hello there, Captain!"?

I know indirect reference isn't capitalized: "The captain says we're screwed," not, "The Captain says we're screwed." But I'm pretty sure all military titles are capitalized in direct address.

Anyone?
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Old 12-30-2015, 04:46 PM   #2
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Captain as a title generally takes the capital. So, 'Hello there, Captain.'
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Old 12-30-2015, 04:47 PM   #3
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Captain, its his particular title. Its not a generic reference as airman or private or sailor are. Ditto junior unless Junior is a name.
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Old 12-30-2015, 04:56 PM   #4
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Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by dr_mabeuse View Post
When directly addressing the captain of a ship in a dialog, say, is it Captain or captain?

"Hello there, captain!" or "Hello there, Captain!"?

I know indirect reference isn't capitalized: "The captain says we're screwed," not, "The Captain says we're screwed." But I'm pretty sure all military titles are capitalized in direct address.

Anyone?
There is no one correct answer as there is not one universal style guide for English (in French they are never capitalised). As a common noun it is lowercase even if referring to a definite unique person: "The captain wore gold buttons on his coat". As a title that forms part of a proper name it is capitalised: "This is Captain Hussein; I'm placing her in command". I think direct address without the name (vocative) is tricky, and you could go either way. I tend to suggest not capitalising wherever possible: "Permission to come aboard, captain?" "Come in, doctor", "Not guilty, my lord".
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:05 PM   #5
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It's his or her title, so I would treat it the same as way as their name.

The captain of the ship came aboard. "Welcome aboard, Captain," the ensign said.

Or: "Welcome aboard, Captain," said Ensign Jones.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:08 PM   #6
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Capital if it's referring to a specific person. Lowercase if it's just using a generic term.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:15 PM   #7
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Lets do the PARTICULAR-SPECIFIC Game.

Particular refers to one, specific refers to a herd or pride or flock of the same thing.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:18 PM   #8
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It is used as a title, like Mister/Mr./etc. and would be capitalized in most cases unless referring to him indirectly.

"Hello, Captain," Admiral Jones said.

"And then you have Captain Nichols in command of..."

"The captain is in his cabin."

But if all you do is call him the Captain throughout the story you would capitalized it all the time as that's his name as far a the reader is concerned.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:24 PM   #9
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Folks here "sort of" have it. Capitalized when it's substituting for a name; lowercased in the generic.

"Aye, aye, full speed ahead, Captain."

"The captain has called for full speed ahead."

"Did Captain tell you full speed ahead?" (rarely seen for a title like this--but think in terms of the use of mother/Mother and father/Father.)

"Did the captain tell you full speed ahead?"

Yes, there's a correct way to do it in English. This is it. No, it's not because it's about a specific person or because it's the person's title, specific or otherwise. It's how it's being used in the sentence. This is a case of direct address and name substitution, so it's clearly capitalized.

It gets hazy on such generic name substitutions as "honey" and "baby." Current usage of these are to lowercase them, as in "Roll me over and do it again, baby." "Baby" here is more of a generic endearment than a name substitution. This is a fuzzy call, though, so what's important is to be internally consistent in what you do.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr71plt View Post
Folks here "sort of" have it. Capitalized when it's substituting for a name; lowercased in the generic.

"Aye, aye, full speed ahead, Captain."

"The captain has called for full speed ahead."

"Did Captain tell you full speed ahead?" (rarely seen for a title like this--but think in terms of the use of mother/Mother and father/Father.)

"Did the captain tell you full speed ahead?"

Yes, there's a correct way to do it in English. This is it. No, it's not because it's about a specific person or because it's the person's title, specific or otherwise. It's how it's being used in the sentence. This is a case of direct address and name substitution, so it's clearly capitalized.

It gets hazy on such generic name substitutions as "honey" and "baby." Current usage of these are to lowercase them, as in "Roll me over and do it again, baby." "Baby" here is more of a generic endearment than a name substitution. This is a fuzzy call, though, so what's important is to be internally consistent in what you do.
I knew you'd be along soon to give us a definitive answer sr71plt
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:59 PM   #11
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There is no definitive answer to this question, no matter how sure of themselves the commentators are. There are plenty of opinions, the authority that backs it up is what's important. The Chicago Manual of Style is widely authoritative in the US, and has said to capitalise title in direct address (source). There are American styleguides that suggest to cap down all personal titles that aren't names or attached to names (this is what NY Times does). A comparison of styleguides is probably more informative than more opinion.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:33 PM   #12
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In U.S. publishing (and much of British publishing as well) there IS a definitive answer. It's provided by the Chicago Manual of Style (see 8.18-8-20). Authors aren't too bright to go off on their own tangents about such things or to encourage others to do so. Publishing is not a "do anything you wish" decision on the basics of presentation. You get "it's all about me" with that, you wind up without a publisher. There is no reason for you not to learn and absorb that at this level of writing. It will save you grief in the end.

You aren't doing anyone a favor by telling them to do whatever they like in publishing presentation. That ain't how it works in real life.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr71plt View Post
Folks here "sort of" have it. Capitalized when it's substituting for a name; lowercased in the generic.

"Aye, aye, full speed ahead, Captain."

"The captain has called for full speed ahead."

"Did Captain tell you full speed ahead?" (rarely seen for a title like this--but think in terms of the use of mother/Mother and father/Father.)

"Did the captain tell you full speed ahead?"

Yes, there's a correct way to do it in English. This is it. No, it's not because it's about a specific person or because it's the person's title, specific or otherwise. It's how it's being used in the sentence. This is a case of direct address and name substitution, so it's clearly capitalized.

It gets hazy on such generic name substitutions as "honey" and "baby." Current usage of these are to lowercase them, as in "Roll me over and do it again, baby." "Baby" here is more of a generic endearment than a name substitution. This is a fuzzy call, though, so what's important is to be internally consistent in what you do.
Okay, my turn.

What about mom and dad? mom as in "My mom said I can't go out." I figure needs no caps, but if what you call her is "Mom" then my thought is "Mom, can I go out."

But that's a direct referral. In narrative how does it work, example "I watched m(M?)om wash the dishes.

What's the correct way to go about this?
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:48 PM   #14
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Okay, my turn.

What about mom and dad? mom as in "My mom said I can't go out." I figure needs no caps, but if what you call her is "Mom" then my thought is "Mom, can I go out."

But that's a direct referral. In narrative how does it work, example "I watched m(M?)om wash the dishes.

What's the correct way to go about this?
I alluded to this in my earlier post, indicating that the mother/Mother and father/Father example was the clearest way to see this.

Direct address and direct name substitute forms are capitalized:

"Can I go out, Mom?" (direct address)

"I can't go out because Mom said I couldn't." (Direct name substitute of a specific mother.)

"I watched my mom wash the dishes." (generic because a pronoun specifies the mother, not the name substitute.)

"I watched Mom wash the dishes." (no generic hedging)

Seems difficult but it becomes easy with usage.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr71plt View Post
I alluded to this in my earlier post, indicating that the mother/Mother and father/Father example was the clearest way to see this.

Direct address and direct name substitute forms are capitalized:

"Can I go out, Mom?" (direct address)

"I can't go out because Mom said I couldn't." (Direct name substitute of a specific mother.)

"I watched my mom wash the dishes." (generic because a pronoun specifies the mother, not the name substitute.)

"I watched Mom wash the dishes." (no generic hedging)

Seems difficult but it becomes easy with usage.
So the pronoun changes it. Thanks for the tip, I'll have to get in the habit of that now.
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:01 PM   #16
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So the pronoun changes it. Thanks for the tip, I'll have to get in the habit of that now.
Yep, watch for an sort of qualifying adjective in front of it. In all cases I can think of, it makes it generic.

On the title "captain" and other even more problematic titles, there's another wrinkle.

In U.S. publishing, putting the title in apposition (David Lawrence, captain of the Sea Bright), lowercases the title (compared with Captain David Lawrence of the Sea Bright).

In U.S. publishing this is followed even for the U.S. president (Barack Obama, president of the United States; the president), the British queen (Elizabeth, queen of Great Britain; the queen), and the pope (Francis, the Catholic pope; the pope).

I can imagine that the queen is uppercased even in the generic when it refers to the current queen in UK publishing and the pope in Italian publishing.
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