Names in the wild: Ancient Grounds

Originally published Jul 1, 2010

(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 GroundsUncommon GroundsSufficient 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.

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