(The Name Inspector used to do this as a semi-regular feature, and then stopped. He’s going to try reviving it for a while, but this time, with words!)

While strolling down 1st Ave in Seattle, The Name Inspector was struck by the name of this cafe. Inside there were displays of what looked like traditional art of native Pacific Northwesterners. So the name is meant to evoke long-time inhabitants and the special relationship they develop to their land. But whoever named this place was unable to resist one of the most overused tropes of cafe-naming: punning on the word grounds. There are cafes called Common Grounds, Uncommon Grounds, Sufficient Grounds, and…well, you’ve seen these places, so think of some more yourself and don’t make The Name Inspector do all the work. He’s tired.

Anyway, there’s a problem with this name. Like all such names, it has two meanings: one that’s not related to coffee, and one that is. Usually the coffee-related interpretation is a positive one, as in Uncommon Grounds (uncommonly good, we mean!), or at least a neutral one, as in Sufficient Grounds (yes, we use enough coffee to brew your cup!). But Ancient Grounds makes it sound like they keep pouring water over the same coffee grounds again and again, and have been doing so for centuries. That just doesn’t promise a tasty cup of joe.

3 Responses to “Names in the wild: Ancient Grounds”

  1. on 02 Jul 2010 at 12:49 pm Charles Bohannan

    I pay keen attention to coffee house names, and even whimsically consider starting a list of all the best.

    Your assessment of Ancient Grounds has some merit in the literal sense, but metaphorically I can’t help but think about coffee drinking as something of an ancient, ancestral ritual. Which makes it all the more enjoyable.

  2. on 09 Nov 2010 at 12:11 pm Jane @ The Borrowed Abode

    My first thought – upon seeing the photo – was “wow, that looks boring.” And as a coffee shop addict (it’s my form of tourism when I travel) I wouldn’t have been lured into it. Seattle’s got so many other coffee shops that beckon to me when I visit. But as soon as you pointed out how it makes the grounds sound used, I laughed out loud. Great point.

  3. on 23 Nov 2011 at 7:13 pm kazz at soulflip

    i got the “ancient” thing right off the bat, before i even read your comments – “ugh, just how ancient *are* their grounds?” if they’re going for a tribal vibe, how about sacred grounds? hallowed grounds? tribal grounds? even ancestral grounds doesn’t really imply old-ass coffee being used one more time to save a buck like “ancient grounds” does.

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