Capitonyms could be a new word and concept for many of you readers. But that is the entire idea behind these short lessons, right? The word is quite a give-away that it deals with capital letters, but what exactly do they do? Sometimes, capital letters make all the difference!
The Macmillan Dictionary defines a capitonym as a word whose meaning differs depending on whether its initial letter is capitalized. When the first letter changes from a small letter to a big one, it changes the meaning (sometimes even sound of the word) of the entire sentence. They belong to the homonym and homophone category since these words usually sound or spell the same, but mean different.
Sometimes, a sentence is very complex to understand until you use a capitonym. Let’s take a look at some examples to understand better.
Capitonyms with examples
1. China and china
China, with a capital letter, is a proper noun. We all know that it is a country, and we cannot use it without a capital letter. What is someone says, “Can you lay down the china for the guests?” Now, that sounds confusing. The word “china” without a capital letter is the porcelain used as dinner sets.
2. Turkey and turkey
“We have Turkey every Thanksgiving.” Can you figure the error in this sentence? Someone who uses a capitonym in this sentence means that they eat the entire country- Turkey, on Thanksgiving. The right form is, “We have turkey every thanksgiving.”
3. August and august
Let’s give this another try. “Naomi was in August company.” We all know that the names of months have to start with a capital letter. In that case, the above sentence does not make any sense. That is the thing about capitonyms. You use it wrong, and the sentence has no meaning. Here’s how we fix this sentence- “Naomi was in august company.” The word “august” here means impressive (adjective).
4. Polish and polish
“Bring out those old shows; I will polish them.” This sentence uses the correct version of the word. The one without the capital letter means to shine or color to something, while the word that begins with the capital letter speaks about the people from Poland. It is amongst those capitonyms that even has a different sound.
5. Conservative and conservative
This pair from the capitonyms is a complex one. You can understand better with the help of this example. “My neighbor is a respectable conservative.” Anyone who could read this sentence is bound to feel confused. The word “conservative” speaks about someone who has orthodox views. On the other hand, Conservative refers to a member of the parliament. The above sentence uses the wrong word from this pair.
6. Tangier and tangier
Tangier is also a proper noun of a place in Morocco. While “tangier” is a taste, it is the comparative degree of the word tangy. Many of us have not heard of the place before. Yet, we go on to use the capital letter to express the taste, which makes the sentence incorrect.
7. Job and job
The word Job that begins with a capital letter has a lot of emphasis in the Biblical world. It is the name of a man from the Bible who remained righteous in God’s eyes. The word with a small letter is what we do for a living. Misusing either of these changes the meaning of a sentence.
8. Reading and reading
Also a town from London, Reading is also a part of the capitonyms. “Jackson is Reading a book.” Why should the word “reading” begin with a capital letter here? Let’s try and use both these words in one sentence. “Jackson is reading a book about the town Reading.” There, now it makes complete sense.
You will find that many capitonyms also coincide with the names of people, such as Bill and bill. Names or popular brands also work as an example. One of them is Fiat and fiat. Similarly, there are many more such pair words, where the capital letter makes a difference. Do you know of some? Leave them in the comment box below.