western Europe or Western Europe

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Nocciolina, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. Nocciolina Senior Member

    do you write western Europe or Western Europe? and why?
  2. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I believe it's Western Europe. English does like to capitalise, especially American English. western Europe would perhaps refer vaguely to that part of Europe that is on the left on most maps. Western Europe is more of a political entity which follows the borders between countries.
  3. elanabean Member

    Yeah, that sounds about right, at least in the US. If you leave "western" in lowercase, it usually refers to a direction. Capitalizing everything would refer to an actual place.
  4. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I believe you have it exactly right, Aupick.

    It will be interesting to see if "Western Europe" as a political entity or cultural bloc remains in use now that the Cold War geo-demarcations have been reconfigured. If the EU evolves into a single nation and comes to include Ukraine, say, then I suspect the term "western Europe" will be used more seldom, and eventually mean the same thing on a political map of Europe as a physical one.

    If the EU comes to include Turkey and/or Russia, the whole idea of Europe will have to be equivocated somewhat-- especially if the UK doesn't join. "Continental," a time-honored synonym for "European" may come back into vogue.
  5. MrMagoo

    MrMagoo Senior Member

    Westphalia, Germany
    Westphalia, Germany; German
    Is there a difference between "West Europe" and "Western Europe"; "West Coast" and "Western Coast", "West California" and "Western California", etc.?!

    Is one of the two versions wrong in special cases?!

    I can often notice a difference in the writings
    "Made in West Germany" and
    "Made in Western Germany"
    (referring to the old Federal Republic of Germany before 1990).

    Is there a difference between these writings - personally, I don't think so, but if there is, what is the difference?!?

    Thanks for your replies

  6. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    West is part of a specific place name, and western is simply an adjective. "West Germany" no longer exists, it was a term designating the old Federal Republic. "Western Germany" might refer to the Rhineland or Friesland or that general part of Germany.

    In AE the West Coast is a specific place-- we don't say the western coast when referring to our own country, but might say "it's on the western coast of Australia." Possibly the Australians call it by the same name we use for our West Coast, and I could chance calling it that without sounding funny-- I just don't know.

    "West California" is not a place, so if you were talking about the western part of that state, which because of its geography is unlikely, you'd-- well, let me just say that the big division in that state is between northern and southern California. I can see capitalizing the names, by the way-- it's as much a quirk of usage as the informal SoCal, which you see all the time though it's about as well-received by the natives as Frisco is to San Franciscans.

    I can think of an exeption, so I'm sure this "rule" is very inadequate as a guideline. Sometimes when a state or country is very large, regions within it get named. Native Texans say "West Texas" and "East Texas" and they mean a very specific section, not a general area. If you said "Western Texas," you would be identified as an outsider. And there are two or three specifically-named regions between East and West Texas.

    In general, I think the rule about specific, defined regions taking "West" and unspecific generalized territory taking "western" is pretty sound. It's just that if you don't come from the region in question, you might not know that local usage has assigned names-- in Texas they have, in California they haven't quite. Other large states have idiosyncratic terms like "Upstate" and "Downstate," or shape-related names like "panhandle."

    Well here's something that muddies things further. I just glanced at an actual map of Australia, and two of their states are named South Australia and Western Australia.

    Looks like you're on your own.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hey Ho, let me ramble a little about Ireland - mostly because it is now 1am (here) and I feel like it, but partly because it relates directly to the thread.
    Here we have Northern Ireland - the formal name for the bit at the top right. We also have Southern Ireland, or The South, neither of which has any formal meaning, but both of which refer to the Republic of Ireland.
    Down there, they would talk about The North.
    Neither of us would talk about western or eastern.
    But, both of us would talk about The West - meaning some ill-defined region that lies to the left of wherever we are at the time - but typically refers to the bits of Ireland that are out on the edge, have lumpy bits rather than bog-land, and are inhabited in the summer months entirely by tourists, hospitality workers from lesser-known parts of continental Europe and Australian students (most of the natives having escaped).

    My point is that in each case the capitalisation depends entirely on the context. If it is simply an adjective, it is lower case. If it is, or pretends to be, part of the name of the place, it is upper case.

    If you mix this principle with the usual tendency of AE-speakers to avoid capitals where BE-speakers like them, you will be close to an answer.

    PS: I think I am agreeing with foxfirebrand - certainly on the "you're on your own" conclusion:D

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