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I'm under the impression "Nordic" should be capitalized when it's on its own, as it's a proper noun.

But should "Nordic" be capitalized when it's used in a compound, such as Nordic combined or Nordic walking, which aren't proper nouns?

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Nordic isn't used a noun in a phrase like "Nordic skiing", it's an adjective. One might call it a proper adjective and it's always capitalised.

OED has

Nordic [sic] adj.
1. Of or relating to Scandinavia, the Scandinavian people, or their languages.

Adjectives which are derived from proper nouns always retain their capitalisation, which is why Scandinavian is capitalised in the OED definition.

Having said "always", there are always exceptions to a rule! I know of only one apparently-proper word which should not be capitalised: english in a very specific sense of spin on a billiard-ball. Normally that's an adjective and should be capitalised; and english as a lower-case noun was probably derived from English anyway, so it wouldn't be a capital offence to spell it with an upper-case letter.

  • Andrew, I'm happy to hear from you here on ELL! Please, stay with us more often, we are building a great resource for ESL persons. +1 and thank you. – user114 Sep 22 '13 at 10:40
  • I am intrigued by your "English on the ball" example. I did some research and found instances of both "english on the ball" and "English on the ball", but books seem to favor the latter. Then I also found this gem, which confounds the issue even more: "Back home four days later .. they put some English on the ball in the form of 6'8" Forward Alex English, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds." – J.R. Sep 22 '13 at 10:43
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    @J.R. There's nothing like a good pun, is there? – Andrew Leach Sep 22 '13 at 10:48
  • As a side note for anyone else who may have found this fascinating to ponder, I found this entry in a dictionary on slang. – J.R. Sep 22 '13 at 10:56
  • @AndrewLeach and that was nothing like a good pun! (Joking, it was a good pun) – Andrew Grimm Sep 22 '13 at 12:24

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