A noun is a word that stands for anything we talk or write about. Grammar is a system for using words, including nouns, clearly—teachers say, “correctly.” Folklore tells a story about “correctly.” A man knocks on the door of a house. A small boy opens the door:
Man: “I’d like to speak to your father.”
Boy: “He ain’t home.”
Man: “That’s no way to talk. Where’s your grammar?”
Boy: “She’s upstairs takin’ a lay-down.”
A “proper” noun is the name of a particular person or thing. It begins with a capital letter. Your name and mine, and that of this magazine, PHOTO Techniques, are proper nouns. So are the titles of pictures. Grammarians call all other nouns “common” nouns, but that’s too mild. Some nouns and adjectives (words that describe things or people, etc.) call for a stronger adjective because they are pernicious. That adjective is “improper.”
“Proper” is variously defined by Webster as, “4. Befitting one’s nature, qualities, etc. right; fit….6. Fine; excellent. 7. Strictly pertinent or applicable; correct; as, proper words in proper places. 8. Archaic. Honest; chaste; respectable. 9. Decorous; decent….- Syn. See FIT.” You get the drift.