Today I learned a new usage of "proper" in the form of "X proper" which means, according to Cambridge Online Dictionary, "belonging to the main, most important, or typical part". For example:
It's a suburb of Los Angeles really - I wouldn't call it Los Angeles proper.
I came across this usage when I was reading some technical document which says:
(Page 27) Compilation can involve up to four stages: preprocessing, compilation proper, assembly and linking, always in that order.
In fact, before I turned to the dictionary, I read another post that asked a similar question and someone replied:
Something you can do in English is, when referring to something in particular, you can say "the X proper" or "the X itself." Sorry, I speak English as a native language so my ability to explain nuances like this are about nil.
My questions are:
- Is there a difference between "X itself" and "X proper"?
- If they have no essential difference, which is more frequently used? "X itself" or "X proper"?
- If they have some difference, which one should I use under what circumstances? I've learned English many years but I have never come across this use of "proper" until I read the technical document today, so, for example, is "X proper" mainly used in a technical/academic environment?