Grammar Moses: What’s in a name?

Gib Van Dine often comes up with inspiration for these columns, but it’s ordinarily a germ of an idea. Today, I should share my byline with him.

What I like about this one is the likelihood I’ll get some audience participation to prompt another column. Hey, I’m a busy guy, and I’ll take the help where I can get it. I encourage you to write to me with other examples, especially for your name.

His idea: given names that can be used in other ways. For the most part, those other uses are nouns and verbs, but I’ll save my save my favorite adjective for the end.

My guess is that when Gib came up with his list he was disappointed that his name does not apply.

In alphabetical order:

• Art: a creative activity

• August: the month of August; respected

• Barb: the hook on an arrow; a sharp remark

• Bill: the beak of a bird; an invoice; a proposed law

• Billy: a club

• Bob: to bounce up and down; to shorten a tail; a blunted haircut

• Bobby: a type of pin; an English cop

• Bonnie: a term of endearment

• Charity: an organization that offers voluntary assistance; the act of providing voluntary assistance

• Charley: as in charley horse, a muscle cramp

• Carol: a Christmas song

• Cliff: a steep rock face

• Daisy: a flower

• Don: to put on

• Drew: past tense of “draw”

• Faith: complete trust in something

• Fanny: on this side of the Atlantic, your rear end

• Felicity: happiness

• Frank: forthright

• Gene: a unit of heredity

• Grace: elegance; goodwill

• Grant: to give, to allow, a gift of money for a purpose

• Hank: a coil of hair or rope

• Hazel: a shrub; an off-brown color

• Hope: a desire for something to happen

• Hunter: one who searches for something or harvests prey

• Iris: a flower

• Ivy: a climbing plant

• Jade: a green stone

• Jasmine: a flower

• Jean: a denim pant

• Jenny: a female donkey

• Jimmy: a tool to force open a door or window; the act of using a jimmy

• Joe: coffee

• John: toilet; customer of a prostitute

• Lily: a flower

• Mark: a blemish, an insignia; the act of making one

• May: a month; expressing a possibility or permission

• Noel: Christmas

• Norm: something typical

• Opal: a precious stone

• Pat: to tap lightly; a measure of butter

• Perry: an alcoholic drink derived from pears

• Peter: to ebb

• Petunia: a flower

• Rob: to steal by force

• Rose: a flower

• Rod: a thin, straight bar, normally of metal; fishing gear

• Ruby: a red precious stone

• Sally: a sortie

• Terry: a fabric with uncut loops used in towels and robes

• Tom: a male cat

• Victor: winner

• Valentine: one’s beloved

• Willow: a tree.

As promised, I have what at least in my world is an example of a name that doubled as an adjective.

When my father-in-law was born in 1919, his father had already died of the flu so the child’s aunt was asked to fill in his name at the hospital. She apparently was not a good speller. His name was to be Aloysius, which 106 years ago wasn’t altogether uncommon. It’s pronounced Al-oh-ISH-us. But she spelled it “Aloysious.” As far as I know, he was the only Aloysious ever.

The suffix “-ious” suggests an adjective. I called him Delicious Aloysious, because it rhymed and it made him blush. But to most of the world he was Leo, his middle name. That wasn’t good enough for me, so I called him Ollie.

He’s been gone for 13 years now, but my newest cat, who is equally delicious in the sense of being delightful, bears that nickname.

Don’t forget to send me your dual purpose names.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim’s book, “Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage,” at Write him at and put “Grammar Moses” in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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