Based in Noblesville, Indiana, Curtis writes the syndicated humor column, Grammar Guy. He also likes to write for startups.

Do the Brussels Hustle

Do the Brussels Hustle

 Photo by  Keenan Loo  on  Unsplash

Photo by Keenan Loo on Unsplash

In 2014, kale was all the rage at the local farmers’ market. 2016 brought us an avocado fad which elevated toast prices among the hipster millennial community. As a professional grammarian and amateur vegetable trend forecaster, take this hot tip: you’re going to want to put all your 2018 summer stock in Brussels sprouts.

Before you object to this up-and-coming veggie trend based on how your mom used to make Brussels sprouts (boiled to oblivion), I’m told there are now more interesting and tasty ways to prepare these cute little cabbages (roasted with sea salt and olive oil, for one).

And it’s spelled Brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts. You could theoretically have one Brussels sprout, I suppose. Even though they originated in the Mediterranean region, Brussels sprouts gained popularity across Europe, especially in Belgium, where they received their geographical moniker. And—yes—I capitalized the “b” in Brussels sprouts.

For that matter, what about the “f” in French toast? French fries certainly don’t always get the capital treatment. In the United Nations of foods, there’s not much capitalization consistency. Will the delegation from Switzerland be offended if Swiss cheese isn’t capitalized? 

One argument against capitalizing any noun phrase containing a place word is that you should call Brussels sprouts “Brussels sprouts” with a capital “b” if (and only if) they did, indeed, originate from the city of Brussels. If they didn’t actually hail from the geographical region, argues the Chicago Manual of Style, you don’t need to capitalize them.

I’m going to have to disagree with the “never capitalize” camp. I’ve never seen baked Alaska with a lowercase “a,” even though the flambéd dessert most likely wasn’t sourced and shipped from our 49th state. The same rule applies to Swiss chard, Dijon mustard, Gorgonzola cheese, Canadian bacon and the Cuban sandwich.

I guess that makes me an all-or-nothing capitalizer; so be it. Either capitalize proper nouns contained in common phrases or don’t. Just because your Hawaiian pizza wasn’t made in Hawaii (the pineapple and ham pizza monstrosity actually originated in Canada) doesn’t mean you demote Hawaii to a common noun with a lowercase h. One thing I can guarantee is that Brussels sprouts are 2018’s kale; so if you pride yourself as the first among your friends to find the latest veggie trends, jump on the bandwagon before it gets too crowded.
 

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