What’s in name? Sometimes more than folks would like

Now I know what it’s like to be a rock star.

Much like the call-and-response segment of any rock show, I asked last week for contributions from the audience and a chorus of you responded.

The topic was people’s names and those names’ other uses.

The attached photo of the man grinning ear to ear is ― you guessed it ― named Cap.

His name is actually Casper, but everyone calls him “Cap” for short. It perfectly illustrates the exercise.

Gib Van Dine and I came up with a long list of first names that have other meanings, but I clearly didn’t come up with a comprehensive list. Here is a look at what some of you had to add to the conversation.

• “I feel disrespected,” Jack LeVan wrote. “So would have my Uncle Ray, God rest his soul.”

• Amber Hanson reminded me that her name is also the word for a tree resin that contains ancient insects and other materials.

• “It seems worth noting that some of the names under discussion are words that have been used as names, rather than vice versa,” wrote David Harding. He added several examples: Betty, as in apple brown Betty; Rosemary, the herb; Sherry, the drink; Autumn, the season; Chastity, the virtue; Penny, the coin; Dawn, the sunrise; Cherie, my love; and Ginger, the spice.

• “My sister has grandkids named ‘River’ and ‘Poppy,’” wrote Beth Todas.

• Ken Juranek added: Calliope, a keyboard musical instrument, notably used in circuses, that uses steam or compressed air; Melody, a collection of musical notes that please the ear; and, of course, Ken, the range of perception, understanding or knowledge.

• Rick Dana Barlow showed off a bit by using initials I had not: Eldritch, sinister; Kin, family; Queen; and Xanthippe (the wife of Socrates), a blond horse.

• Ernie Chamot, with sincerity, came up with Earnest.

• Debbi Cork, who calls herself my nonaristocratic admirer, reminded me about Deb, short for “debutante.”

• Anne Walker added: Garnet, a deep red stone; Glen, a valley; and Virginia, a state.

• “I would like to submit the moniker ‘Curt,’ meaning rudely brief. It sprang rather readily to mind because I remain, Yours truly, Kurt Stauff.”

• Terri Krause, who despite her name says she is not a bathrobe, suggested “Dawn.”

• Karen Simpson has a granddaughter named Zinnia, a flower.

• Tom Connelly added Tab, to select or mark.

• “My name, Sue, has an unfortunate double meaning,” wrote Sue Becker.

Thank you all for playing.


In a recent column I cited a book, putting quotation marks around it.

“I had always been told that the general rule is to italicize book titles,” wrote Dennis Depcik.

This is another one of those Associated Press style things. Ordinarily, you would put the title of a book in italics, but in newspapers it’s de rigueur to put it in quotes.

It’s good to know that I’m not the only person who gets excited about learning a new word. Trey Higgens was moved to write me after seeing “jeremiad” in a Carolyn Hax advice column.

A jeremiad is a long written work lamenting the state of society and prophesying its imminent downfall.

It’s derived from the name Jeremiah, the biblical prophet. His Book of Lamentations is not what I’d classify as a breezy beach read.

I predict you’ll see a resurgence of “jeremiad” in keeping with the times.

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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