Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th president, came into this world as Hiram Ulysses Grant. When his name was mistakenly entered on the West Point register as Ulysses Simpson Grant, he eagerly embraced the error because he detested the initials H.U.G. and loved having the initials U.S., as in “United States,” “Uncle Sam” and “Unconditional Surrender.”

Using the nicknames below, identify the real name of each American president. The answers repose at the end of this column.

1. The Great Emancipator
2. Old Hickory
3. The Father of His Country
4. The Sage of Monticello
5. Ike
6. The King of Camelot
7. Tricky Dicky
8. Silent Cal 9. Tippecanoe
10. Old Rough and Ready|
11. The Gipper
12. The New Dealer
13. The Rough Rider
14. Big Bill
15. The Bachelor President

Presidents have more than their share of intriguing middle names. Two of them – Ronald Wilson Reagan and William Jefferson Clinton – match the last names of two of their predecessors. Using each middle name listed, identify the full name of each American president:

1. Abram
2. Baines
3. Birchard
4. Delano
5. Fitzgerald
6. Gamaliel
7. Hussein
8. Knox
9. Milhous
10. Quincy

Anybody can ascend to the presidency of the United States. Jefferson did it, Nixon did it and Truman did it. So any Tom, Dick and Harry can become president!

What is the most popular first name among presidents? The answer isn’t Tom, Dick or Harry. It’s James. Six presidents share that first name – Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield and Carter (the first president to use his nickname). Tied for second place are William with four – Harrison, McKinley, Taft and Clinton – and John with four – Adams, Quincy Adams, Tyler and Kennedy. Massachusetts is the birth state of three presidents named John – John Adams, John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy.

Despite 14 presidents with the first names James, John and William, 19 of our chief executives, starting with Thomas Jefferson and ending with Barack Obama, have first names not shared by any other in the office. Our next president will likely be the 20th.

H is the most popular first letter of presidential last names – Harrison, Hayes, Harrison, Harding and Hoover. S is the most common letter at the beginning of English words, but no president’s surname starts with S.

Five pairs of presidents have shared the same last name – Adams, Harrison, Johnson, Roosevelt and Bush. Only the Johnsons were not related to each other. We may soon have a sixth shared presidential surname, Clinton.

Pierce, Grant, Ford, Carter, Bush, Bush and (in Britain) Hoover are all common words when uncapitalized. If Donald Trump becomes president, his surname will be added to the list.

Five presidential last names consist of four letters. In chronological order they are Polk, Taft, Ford, Bush and Bush. George W. Bush is the only one among them to have served two terms.

Theodore Roosevelt was our first president to be known by his initials, TR. Following in that tradition have been FDR, JFK and LBJ.

Four presidents have had alliterative first and last names – Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan. They all served in the 20th century.

Nine presidents with double letters in one of their names served sequentially – William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Answers

Nicknames:1. Abraham Lincoln 2. Andrew Jackson 3. George Washington 4. Thomas Jefferson 5. Dwight Eisenhower 6. John Fitzgerald Kennedy 7. Richard Nixon 8. Calvin Coolidge 9. William Henry Harrison 10. Zachary Taylor 11. Ronald Reagan 12. Franklin Roosevelt 13. Theodore Roosevelt 14. William Howard Taft 15. James Buchanan

Middle names: 1. James Abram Garfield 2. Lyndon Baines Johnson 3. Rutherford Birchard Hayes 4. Franklin Delano Roosevelt 5.John Fitzgerald Kennedy 6. Warren Gamaliel Harding 7. Barack Hussein Obama 8. James Knox Polk 9. Richard Milhous Nixon (whence the character Milhouse, Bart’s best friend on “The Simpsons”) 10. John Quincy Adams (the only president whose name contains a letter that is found in no other president’s name. That letter is q.)