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Punctuation provides plinth for pointless political posturing

I have noticed that many writers, professional or otherwise, do not capitalise the word ‘Nazi’ in their work. I am aware that ‘Nazi’ was originally an acronym, however I believe its ubiquitous use in preference to ‘National Socialist’ has transformed ‘Nazi’ into a discrete word in the modern vernacular. According to the rules of punctuation, it should be capitalised. In fact, it should be capitalised regardless of whether it’s an acronym or not – ‘Nazi’ is a proper noun. So why is it that many writers fail to heed this rather simple rule? Is there some convention that stipulates an exception in the case of the word ‘Nazi’, because of its association with the terrible crimes of Hitler and his followers? Or is it an affectation of a group of writers, striving to express disgust at Nazism in every conceivable manner, withdrawing from it even the privilege of an introductory capital letter? Either/or, it strikes me as rather odd that people would ignore the rules of written English as part of an effort to display their disdain for an ideology. Do they see it as a linguistic equivalent of denying someone the Last Rites? How silly. What’s wrong with conveying disapproval in the manner most writers find useful; by, er, writing something disapproving?

33 comments to Punctuation provides plinth for pointless political posturing

  • guy herbert


    1. Nazism was a singular phenomenon, but people brought up to believe that it was solely an outcome of economic forces in late capitalism and was a form of “fascism” (very broadly construed), wish to believe that there are other Nazis than the followers and imitators of Hitler waiting to spring out of the shadows to defend even later capitalism, should economic collapse call them. If you think that Nazi is not a proprietary brand, but an inherent quality, a political substance, then lower case makes sense.

    2. The same sort of sheer ignorance that leads even graduates to write me letters without I capitalised.

  • While on the subject of grammar, it is just as important is the significance of the period. My sister said she missed one, my mom faint, my dad got a heart attack and the driver ran away.

    P.S. I stole that from somewhere. Also, I don’t have a sister.

  • Winzeler

    Is it like taking the capital G out of the Christian God?

  • It seems like a very obscure way of making a political point, and not ostentatious enough to be an affectation. I think the most likely explanation is ignorance.

  • Is it like taking the capital G out of the Christian God?

    This one bugs me too. I don’t personally believe in any religion, but it seems to me that “God” – in reference to the Christian or Jewish God, has been incoporated into English as a common name and should be capitalized – the same way that “Allah” or “Vishnu” would be. It’s an irritating affectation to put it in lowercase.

  • Manuel II Paleologos

    I think it is because it is just a noun, like “fascist”, rather than the name of a specific party. Do you describe Miterrand as a Socialiste or a socialist? Were Russians Communists or just communists?

    I’m not sure it’s quite so clear that it’s a proper noun, and I certainly don’t think it’s a deliberate snub.

  • I hat nitzis so much that, not only do I not captialise the word, I don’t even spell it correctly. That is how much I hate nitzism.

  • Manuel – it’s undoubtably a proper noun, because it’s an acronym of a now-defunct political party.

  • Tom

    I was told by a lecturer at one of our most august institutions of higher education that Fascism is spelt correctly with a capital ‘F’ only when it refers specifically to Mussolini’s Italian Fascists.

    It would make sense for Nazi to be similar: with a capital ‘N’ it denotes the German National Socialists and things related; otherwise, if a samizdata commentator wants to describe the introduction of ID cards as ‘nazi’ he should forgo the capital letter.

    It’s then an adjective suggesting policies or behaviour recognisably national-socialist in character rather than policies or behaviour specifically inspired by Hitler.

    Sound reasonable?

  • “god” — I do it as a matter of generality of a concept, quite a bit broader than Christianity.

    What burns me up is “xtian”. I’ve seen people defend that on grounds of keystroke economy, but I’m convinced that it’s always a cheap snipe.

    (I’m an atheist.)

  • As a liberal user of swearwords, there are some instances when nothing except “god” will do.

    I do not capitalise it — unless it is the first word in a sentence, of course — for two reasons. The first is that I could be referring to any diety in any of the pantheons, rather than that of the Christians.

    The second is that I am an atheist. I have always seen the capitalisation of “God” (and particularly of the pronouns) as a mark of obeisance; an acknowledgement of His power.


  • Ringo

    Perhaps it’s merely a statement of Anti-Capital-ism?

  • cryptononcommie

    I don’t understand English capitalization. For example, Germany is a proper noun, and should therefore be capitalized; however, German (not as in a German, but as in a German car) is an adjective, so why is it capitalized? Where is the logic? Similarly, “a German” is a common noun, just like “a man,” yet “a German” is capitalized, while “a man” is not. Complete and utter madness.

  • Eamon Brennan

    There used to be a journalistic convention that a prefix would be stripped from someone convicted in a court of law.

    The defendant, Mr Jones, would become simply Jones, if convicted.

  • Nazi also referred to germans, and most of the writers have the hatred towards them, or possibly they dont fine it necessary to be highlighted.

  • dpv

    Merriam-Webster allows “nazi” with a lowercase “n” to mean someone who resembles a member of the Nazi party. (This is how it became an acceptable Scrabble word.)

  • Simon Norton

    Nazi is an abbreviation, rather than an acronym, for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei: the acronym being NSDAP. It is correct to capitalise when referring to a member of the Nazi party but not when it is used in the perjorative sense. A similar, though reveersed example, would be Democrat (member of the democratic party) and democrat (someone who supports democracy).

  • Justin

    Xtian was never an insult. X has been a common abbreviation of Christ for centuries, or rather an abbreviation of ΧÏιστός, the Greek word translated as Christ.

    And as we all learned from “The Last Crusade”, God prefers Greek.

  • Captain Coma

    Nah nah, you’re all wrong.

    “Nazi” is a Bavarian colloquialism meaning roughly “bumpkin” or “simpleton”, and it was interjected by Hitler’s first, very satirical, biographer (Konrad Heiden). Needless to say, he had to leave the country fast, although it was also said that in the early days Hitler so valued Heiden as a vocal opponent that he refused to begin a political meeting until he had arrived to heckle.

    The abbreviation for the National Socialist Party of Germany was “NaSo” (maybe “Naso”) but nobody except them ever used it.

  • Captain Coma, please go back to bed. You are quite wrong.

  • veryretired

    I’ll get to the Nazi question later. Right now I’m trying to figure out what a “plinth” is, do I want one, and can I order it from Amazon?


    Do plinths come in different sizes, and what’s the average for s&h? Thanks

  • If I remember things correctly, then ‘Nazi’ indeed used to be a Bavarian colloquialism (a short form for the first name Ignaz). Somehow this went out of fashion after 1945.

  • Midwesterner


    “plinth is a unit of measure. The first letter is the variable ‘a’ through ‘z’. ‘linth’ is what is being measured. So ‘plinth’ is a little shorter than ‘qlinth’ but longer than m, n, & olinth.

    A similar method can be used vertically. For example, phite would be not as tall as qhite, but a little taller than m, n & ohite.

    So to answer your question, no, plinths do not come in different sizes. But you can order as many as you like. You could even order a whole load of plinth and s & h would be about three days.

    By the way, I currently am low on ~linth and have a greater stock of the various types of ~hite in stock. I have a lot in size ‘s’ that I’ve just shipped out to you at cost. So if you didn’t realize it yet, I’m sending you a load of shite. Anything for a friend.

  • veryretired

    Thanks, Mid, I laughed until I spit coffee all over my plinth.

    By the by, s&h is shipping and handling—a cost, not a time.

    There, now the whole thing is totally confused and OT. Right where I usually am, and probably belong.

  • Midwesterner

    My mistake. I thought you meant to pay with Green Stamps™. I should have said three ‘books’.

    As for punctuation and capitalization, mine is so bad, I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. When I see an error, i assume It is ignorance or fast typing. In the past I’ve been accused of punctuating on the quota method. Occasionally I throw in a semicolon just to see if anyone calls me on it. One of the first things I noticed on Samizdata is that Perry never calls anyone on their spelling, etc. No hypocrite, he.

    While I sometimes suspect people may be trying to yank chains, punctuation, spelling or grammer has to be pretty far outside the box before I seriously consider it may be a statement. When Gabriel (?) refered to “G-d”, I wondered at it enough to Google it, immediately found this, problem solved. As long as the editors set the tone of substance over packaging, I’m happy with it.

  • I’ll admit that I try to always say “National Socialist”. It’s always fun to remind people that they were just another flavor of socialism…

  • CFM

    “. . . it strikes me as rather odd that people would ignore the rules of written English as part of an effort to display their disdain for an ideology.”

    Rules of written English is the least of it. The statist Left makes up words and phrases from whole cloth or completely redefines existing words to promote their social agenda. Others (Moslems and the Religious Right come to mind) are learning, but are amateurs compared to the Left.

    Fifty years ago, all of the following examples either did not exist, had an entirely different meaning, or made absolutely no sense. These were made up for a reason:

    Homophobia, Lookism, Racial Profiling, White Privelege, Gay Marriage, Diversity, Tolerance, Hate Crime, Exploitation, Future time orientation, Respect, Womyn, Kwanzaa, Islamophobia, Undocumented Migrant, Sensitivity, Ageism, Green, . . . ad nauseum.

    Even “plinth,” it seems, no longer means the flat base of an architectural column . . .


  • Even “plinth,” it seems, no longer means the flat base of an architectural column . . .

    Not so… it is called ‘creative writing’. I immediatly pictured a gonzo leftie standing on a plinth, striking a pose like some bizarre statue.

  • Fred Jenson

    nazi is a valid scrabble word (OSPD Fourth Edition) therefore it is not a proper noun.


  • CFM

    Not so… it is called ‘creative writing’

    Oops. Sorry Perry. My comment wasn’t meant as a criticism of your comment title. I was attempting to carry on the giggle generated by Midwesterner above. Hey, I LIKE your writing. That’s why I read your blog.


  • Well, I must defer to that great arbiter of the English language – the Scrabble lexicon!

    And it is a proper noun if it is used to describe the now-defunct German National Socialist party, or a member of said party.

    Even when it is a proper noun, you see many authors treat it as though it isn’t. That’s what this post is about.

  • Troika

    Occam’s Razor, an alleged lynchpin of the liberal worldview, states that, where several explanations can be entertained, the simplest one should be assumed to be correct. In this instance, this is not some conspiracy against national socialism, nor the steeping of most writers in Marxist-Leninist praxeology, but sheer, plain ignorance and carelessness. Interestingly enough, this also happens to be an explanation which allows for the amelioration of the present situation, as no amount of prolcaiming the truth of libertarianism from the roof tops will give brain cells to those who lack them.

  • Troika

    for the least amelioration