If you’re a keen observer of grammar rules, you may have often wondered, should feta cheese be capitalized?
Maybe I have given the answer away by not capitalizing it myself!
But is that correct?
Why are some cheese names capitalized and others are not?
Is feta named after a place?
How did the cheese get its name?
Let’s go back to school and learn about capitalization and how it relates to cheese!
Feta cheese is generally not capitalized since it’s a noun, not a proper noun. However, some argue that capitalization distinguishes it as a specific type of cheese. Usually, only cheeses named after a place are capitalized, like Parmigiano. In fact, since “feta” means cheese, using the word “cheese” after “feta” is a tautology, unnecessary repetition.
Why is Feta Cheese Not Capitalized?
As if grammar rules were not complicated enough, we now have to consider them even for cheese!
No doubt you have seen various websites mention feta cheese, and some of them may have capitalized the name.
But, strictly speaking, that’s not correct.
Only words that are proper nouns should be capitalized, such as people’s names, brand names, holidays, planets or places, etc.
Feta is not a place, and the name is derived from the Greek word meaning cheese.
So, actually, not only should feta not be capitalized, but you shouldn’t add the word cheese to it either!
That is called tautology, because you are actually saying cheese cheese, you are duplicating the word!
However, the majority of people will say feta cheese, and that’s what I plan on continuing to do!
Which Cheese Names Should Be Capitalized?
So, having established that feta should not be capitalized, what other cheese names are we likely to get wrong?
One that is often capitalized and shouldn’t be is mozzarella.
Perhaps you thought mozzarella was a place in Italy, and that’s where the cheese comes from!
Actually, the word is Italian for “little slice”; it’s not a place.
On the other hand, Cheddar, Colby, and Manchego cheeses should be capitalized, but often aren’t, despite the fact they come from specific places.
And it goes without saying that talking about American cheese or Swiss cheese should definitely start with a capital letter.
But not the word cheese itself…
Now, just to take things further, the name of a cheese should be capitalized if it’s from a specific area, even if it doesn’t share the exact same name as the place.
For example, Parmagiano cheese should be capitalized, even though it’s from Parma, there is no region called Parmagiano.
And, of course, you probably know it as Parmesan, which actually can be made anywhere, it doesn’t have to come from Parma, but it’s still capitalized.
Oh dear, I wish I hadn’t started this conversation; it’s quite confusing!
And as for the use of accent marks, such as in chèvre, that’s a whole new story and not one I will be going into here!
Real Greek Feta
The word feta should not be capitalized as it is not named after a specific person or place, and it is not a brand name.
It should also not be described as feta cheese, as the word feta itself means cheese, so essentially, you are saying it twice.
Many kinds of cheese are named after specific places, such as Cheddar, and should be capitalized.
Shall we forget all about this and just concentrate on eating the cheese?
But if you are interested in more fascinating cheese facts, allow me to blow your mind by discussing what happens if you microwave feta!