Anyone learning English already knows that the English language is full of quirks (strange things). One quirk has to do with capitalization, whether a word is written with a capital first letter (Letter) or not (letter). With some words, its meaning actually changes when you capitalize it. These words are called “capitonyms.”
Some of the most often used capitonyms are related to place names. Here are a few examples.
Earth: the planet that we live on
“Do you believe there is life on planets other than Earth?”
earth: dirt, the material on the surface of the ground
“The workers found important historical artifacts (items made by people who live a long time ago) under the top layer of earth.”
Notice that the pronunciation of both terms are the same. That’s not the case with the example below:
Polish: relating to the things or people of Poland
“Are you going to eat that Polish sausage (a type of food, similar to a hot dog)?”
to polish: to make something shiny (reflecting light) by rubbing it
“Yimi polished his leather shoes before going on the important interview.”
Other capitonyms have nothing to do with place names.
Frank: a man’s name
“Do you know Frank Bumgardner? I went to high school with him.”
frank: in speech or writing, being honest and direct
“Please be frank with me. I want to know the truth even if it’s bad news.”
August: the eighth month of the calendar year
“Many families go on vacation in August, right before school begins again in September.”
august: respected and considered very important
“Monica didn’t expect to attend a dinner with such august guests that included members of the royal family.”
There isn’t a comprehensive (with all included) list of capitonyms, but you can find more examples here. The only way to know how they are being used is by looking at the context (words used around it).
Are there similarly strange quirks in the languages you speak? Do capital letters make a difference in meaning?