Is "coach" a proper noun in this case?



I'm not going to play next year if coach makes me ride the pine again this season. (source)

The sentence syntactically suggests "coach" has to be a proper noun, although it is not capitalized. It looks to me "coach" here functions the same way as "Mom" in "I asked Mom where my book was."

Should it be capitalized when used as title before a name? For example:

Have you talked to Coach/coach Anderson?

A discussion on a sports journalism forum on this topic has mixed opinions and seems ultimately inconclusive, so I wonder what the proper writing rules are.

Eddie Kal

Posted 2018-09-22T19:20:28.370

Reputation: 15 761

It's fine either way. Mom can also be in lowercase. It depends on the person's underlying usage (semantics). Colloquial English will also often drop article for nouns. – Jason Bassford – 2018-09-22T19:23:50.637



  • The coach told me to make the play. No capitals.

  • I don't know why Coach Anderson told me to make the play. Capitals. It would be capitalized but is not a proper noun. Names preceded by a title call for capitals to be used.

Names of countries and cities are proper nouns or people are proper nouns, for example.

Wikipedia on proper nouns: proper nouns

The practice of capitalizing a name after a title is not the same thing:

- President Lincoln

- Judge Smith

- Coach Anderson

Coach can be used as a title preceding a name, and, therefore, is capitalized. It is pretty much universally accepted that in an article or formal context (like a formal announcement or invitation or notice on a notice board) a last name preceded by a title would be capitalized. The question is not about proper names. It's about titles for people and their last names.


Posted 2018-09-22T19:20:28.370

Reputation: 26 929


You correctly understand that "coach" refers to the person who is in that position, and as such is a so-called "proper noun" for entities.

But the typographic conventions that attempt to reflect such categories of Speech are not controlled by anyone who has the power to torture those who disobey those conventions, so there is considerable variation in that regard.


Posted 2018-09-22T19:20:28.370

Reputation: 116 610

a side question: what does "ride the pine" mean? – dan – 2018-09-23T00:35:27.517

3@dan Benches are often made from pinewood, and the expression means sitting on the bench during games instead of being allowed to play. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- – 2018-09-23T00:51:56.190


Given that your answer is "yes" and the other answer is "no", a citation or two would be really helpful, here. Also, your random capitalization of "Speech" doesn't help your answer look authoritative.

– David Richerby – 2018-09-23T00:52:53.427

1@dan Actually if you click on the source link in my question, it takes you to the definition of the idiom you are asking about. – Eddie Kal – 2018-09-23T02:31:22.267

@Deancue: To be fair, the context doesn't suggest that the link might be to the definition of that idiom, and you'd have to be compulsively clicking (or at least mousing over) every link you see to stumble upon that definition page. – BoltClock – 2018-09-23T04:02:25.277

@BoltClock Yes, you are right. I was just suggesting an easy way to get to a fairly detailed definition page. :) – Eddie Kal – 2018-09-23T04:48:03.947

@David Richerby: That capitalization was deliberate. Typographic and orthographic conventions morph over time, including the conventions that govern such things as capitalization of the initial letter of nouns deployed as rubrics. An author who is not bound to the conventions of a particular publishing organ and house style sheet has considerable latitude. Consider:

– Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-09-23T14:36:58.020

Sure. All I'm saying is that, without any citations, your answer is basically "Trust me" and that trust is undermined by your unusual use of capitalization. Maybe you also have unusual ideas about what is or is not a proper noun. – David Richerby – 2018-09-23T14:59:03.697

President Lincoln. Queen Elizabeth, Councilman Smith.....Your answer does not seem to address the root issue: titles preceding last names. coach is not a proper noun. – Lambie – 2018-09-23T16:33:23.900

@David Richerby: Not all nouns that are capitalized are proper nouns. Coach in OP's example is. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-09-23T18:28:23.977

There is no reason in modern English orthography to capitalize the word "speech" as you have done. – David Richerby – 2018-09-23T19:35:22.850

@David Richerby: A contemporary author could decide to use speech when referring to instances of speaking ("The speech of grammarians is peppered with jargon") and Speech when referring to the noun as an abstract area of inquiry ("We consider Speech from several angles in this study"). The point I am trying to make is that if house rules don't prevent the author from taking such liberties, the liberty is there to be taken. Departing from writing conventions and departing from the grammatical are very different things. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-09-23T20:06:30.593