This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
DEAREST WORD WIZARD,
HELLO! I'M DESPERATE, I NEED YOUR HELP, AND I'M HERE TO ASK
YOU A QUESTION I KNOW YOU CAN ANSWER. PLEASE! I HAVE A FRIEND I'M REALLY INTERESTED IN AND WE'RE BOTH TRYING TO BREAK EACH OTHER'S RIDDLE. THE ONE SHE GAVE ME WAS, "WHAT IS A PROPER NAME WITH 9 LETTERS AND IT HAS 2 E'S AND 2 N'S IN IT?". PLEASE HELP ME! I'M NOT FAMILIAR OR EVEN KNOW WHAT A PROPER NAME IS, WORD WIZARD COME TO MY RESCUE BEFORE I GO CRAZY. THANKS,I DO APPRECIATE IT!
PLEASE REPLY IN A HURRY, I'M DESPERATE TO KNOW.
I REALLY LIKE THIS GIRL. YOUR LOYAL SUPPORTER,
Submitted by TYLER SMITH-JR. (L A - U.S.A.)
Signature: Topic imported and archived
Help. Moral blackmail alert! OK. A proper name is something like 'Tyler Smith Jr' or as the Oxford English Dictionary has it:
'Applied to a name or noun which is used to designate a particular individual object (e.g. a person, a tame animal, a star, planet, country, town, river, house, ship, etc.). A proper name is written with an initial capital letter. The same proper name may be borne by many persons in different families or generations, or by several places in different countries or localities; but it does not connote any qualities common to and distinctive of the persons or things which it denotes. A proper name may however receive a connotation from the qualities of an individual so named, and be used as a common noun, as a Hercules, a Cæsar (Kaiser, Czar), a Calvary, an atlas.'
So now you know.
The next problem is the riddle. I fear you may be in for summoning up your best charm offensive here since even the WW, duly grateful for your support, isn't very good at word games. Its probably a US state, although lots seem to have the requisite two x 'n' not so many have the e's. Anyway, good luck.
Signature: Jonathon Green
Looking for references endorsing or decrying the concept of multi-word nouns, I came across the following in the current Wikipedia article on proper nouns at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun
A distinction is normally made in current linguistics between proper nouns
and proper names
. By this strict distinction, because the term noun is used for a class of single words (tree, beauty), only single-word proper names are proper nouns: Peter and Africa are both proper names and proper nouns; but Peter the Great and South Africa, while they are proper names, are not proper nouns.
Obviously, the author isn't in the multi-word noun camp.
Perhaps he doesn't use the term compound noun