"Wisdom begins with putting the right name on a thing"
(Old Chinese Proverb)

Geographical Nouns vs Adjectives

The committee wrestled with whether we should spell a geographical word in its noun or adjective form. An in-depth review of existing names revealed that, in general, places of large size have been spelled in the adjective form (e.g., African, Mexican, Japanese), while smaller places are spelled as nouns (e.g., Timor, Kentucky, Nepal). Continents and major regions have always been spelled in adjective form, while small islands and cities have always been spelled as nouns. Countries and large islands are treated inconsistently. Some countries are always found in adjective form (e.g., Egyptian, Chinese), while others are always in noun form (e.g., Canada, Gabon). The same is true of large islands (e.g., Javan and Bornean, on the one hand, and Madagascar and Sulawesi on the other).

The committee decided that to achieve complete consistency among names would require the wholesale changing of familiar names. It would also pose too many difficult decisions on which way to go-noun or adjective-and where to draw the line between large and small. We decided to leave the names the way they were, and to make only such changes as were necessary to create consistency in the use of each individual name (e.g., to use Tahiti consistently and not have both Tahiti and Tahitian). This required remarkably few changes.