detective / Detective Holmes (capitalization)

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damita.jo

Senior Member
Polish
Hello:)
If I want to use a title, let's say "detective", together with somebody's name, should I capitalize this title? Eg "Detective Holmes" or "Detective Poiroit"?
Thanks:)
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    If detective is a title, yes. But if you are referring to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot then, no. Detective was their occupation, not their title.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    If detective is a title, yes. But if you are referring to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot then, no. Detective was their occupation, not their title.
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

    (Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot had only the courtesy title of "Mr.")

    You might review the concept of "false titles."
     
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    KHS

    Senior Member
    I would say that, by the phrasing Detective Holmes, you are conferring a formal, though honorary, title. This would be particularly true if you were using it as a term of address. If you are doing that, then I would capitalize it.

    If, however, you are using it to identify someone, as in "that world-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes," then it would tend to fall into the category of false title that sdgraham refers to.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would say that, by the phrasing Detective Holmes, you are conferring a formal, though honorary, title.
    However, Sherlock Holmes is British to his socks, and that sort of usage is wholly alien in BE. When I hear an American politician or reporter speak of 'Prime Minister Cameron' I have a little mental cringe. It's not his title, he is the Right Honourable David Cameron, MP, the Prime Minister, otherwise known as 'Mr Cameron'. Similarly, in BE, Sherlock Holmes could never be referred to as 'Detective Holmes'. This is not a criticism of AE - we merely speak different languages.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In Britain the title 'Detective' is given only to a police officer. It is used in combination with the person's rank.

    "I would like to introduce Detective Constable Jones."
    "This is Detective Inspector Smith."
    etc.

    Note that the famous Holmes and Poirot were private investigators. They could also be called private detectives but in neither case is that a title - it is simply a description.
     
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    KHS

    Senior Member
    However, Sherlock Holmes is British to his socks, and that sort of usage is wholly alien in BE. When I hear an American politician or reporter speak of 'Prime Minister Cameron' I have a little mental cringe. It's not his title, he is the Right Honourable David Cameron, MP, the Prime Minister, otherwise known as 'Mr Cameron'. Similarly, in BE, Sherlock Holmes could never be referred to as 'Detective Holmes'. This is not a criticism of AE - we merely speak different languages.
    I think it's important to remember that the original question was about capitalization of titles, with "Detective" simply being given as an example. My answer was meant to answer that question, not to supply correct usage of the term "detective/Detective."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think it's important to remember that the original question was about capitalization of titles, with "Detective" simply being given as an example. My answer was meant to answer that question, not to supply correct usage of the term "detective/Detective."
    Indeed, and my wider point was that we don't confer 'formal, though honorary', titles in BE. That's why I gave an example other than 'detective'.
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    Indeed, and my wider point was that we don't confer 'formal, though honorary', titles in BE. That's why I gave an example other than 'detective'.
    You did, however, capitalize the incorrect title of Prime Minister David Cameron, so I assume that you would confer capitalized status upon titles, even those used incorrectly.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Umm, I was writing American, since I was referring to what American politicians and reporters say (and write), so of course I capitalized it. I don't think we disagree about capitalizing titles. After all, my first comment in this thread was
    If detective is a title, yes. But if you are referring to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot then, no. Detective was their occupation, not their title.
    The OP chose those examples, and since both are characters in BE fiction the OP perhaps needs to know that to refer to them as "Detective Holmes" and "Detective Poirot" is wrong.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Oh, I would never myself call them Detective Holmes or Detective Poirot, but thought that if one did, the word detective should be capitalized.
    Well, if you did that, you would have to capitalize all false titles, such as:

    "Stripper Tawdry Being."

    "Serial Killer Son of Sam."

    "House Painter Manny Drops"

    "Ditch Digger Howie Dunnit"

    :D
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    I guess there is a difference for me between attributing a title to someone, and using a descriptive term in a way that is similar to a title. I think anyone that said [D]etective Sherlock Holmes would mean it as a title, not a descriptive term/false title. It seems to me that intention plays a role here, even when the title may be incorrectly applied.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    "Detective" capitalized is more a rank inside a police force and not just something you can grant someone as an honorary title.
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Detective" capitalized is more like a rank inside a police force and not just something you can grant someone as an honorary title. Even "Detective Poirot" would be totally wrong because "Detective" is not a rank inside the police force of which he is a member.
    Britain
    As I tried to indicate in #9, Detective is not a rank in itself. We would not speak of Detective Williams. Each police officer has a rank, e.g. Constable, Inspector etc. 'Detective' merely modifies the rank and indicates that the officer has had the appropriate training and experience. I cannot speak for countries other than Britain.

    Examples
    Detective Williams :cross:
    Inspector Robinson :tick:
    Detective Inspector Brown :tick:


    Officers holding ranks up to and including Chief Superintendent who are members of the ...CID...and certain other units... have the prefix "Detective" before their rank...It is a misconception ... that detective ranks are superior to those of uniformed officers. In the United Kingdom, this is not the case, and a detective sergeant has the same powers and authority as a uniformed sergeant. The "Detective" prefix designates that the officer has a proven investigative ability and has received suitable training...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_ranks_of_the_United_Kingdom
     
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    KHS

    Senior Member
    There seem to be separate discussions going on:
    (1) If you intend to use a word as a title (whether it's attributed correctly or incorrectly), should it be capitalized? (There is a side discussion of the difference between descriptive terms used in a similar grammatical way as titles, and words intended to function as full titles.)
    (2) Is the term d/Detective correctly applied to Holmes/Poirot? (with a side discussion of other inaccurately applied titles)

    If I have understood people clearly, we seem to be agreed that
    (1) a term intended as a title should be capitalized
    (2) "Detective" is not correct as a title for Holmes/Poirot
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There seem to be separate discussions going on:
    (1) If you intend to use a word as a title (whether it's attributed correctly or incorrectly), should it be capitalized? (There is a side discussion of the difference between descriptive terms used in a similar grammatical way as titles, and words intended to function as full titles.)
    (2) Is the term d/Detective correctly applied to Holmes/Poirot? (with a side discussion of other inaccurately applied titles)

    If I have understood people clearly, we seem to be agreed that
    (1) a term intended as a title should be capitalized
    (2) "Detective" is not correct as a title for Holmes/Poirot
    I would add to that (3) "Detective" on its own is not a valid title for anybody - not in Britain at least - it is a prefix to a title/rank. See my post above #18
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There seem to be separate discussions going on:
    (1) If you intend to use a word as a title (whether it's attributed correctly or incorrectly), should it be capitalized? (There is a side discussion of the difference between descriptive terms used in a similar grammatical way as titles, and words intended to function as full titles.)
    (2) Is the term d/Detective correctly applied to Holmes/Poirot? (with a side discussion of other inaccurately applied titles)

    If I have understood people clearly, we seem to be agreed that
    (1) a term intended as a title should be capitalized
    (2) "Detective" is not correct as a title for Holmes/Poirot
    Without any need for further caveat :thumbsup:
     
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