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From proper name to epithet: motivation and change in the fashion industry

Silvia Cacchiani


The purpose of this paper is to investigate English terms and, more precisely, nominal constructs (Booij [2010]) with proper names as modifiers, in the changing history of fashion and customs. Starting on the assumption that proper names and common nouns form prototypical categories with fuzzy boundaries (Van Langendonck [2007]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]), we provide a qualitative investigation of a representative selection of terms that were manually gathered from encyclopaedic dictionaries, visual dictionaries and landmark publications on the history of fashion. Data shows that conceptual metonymy plays a key role in the shift from the identifying and individualizing function of prototypical place and personal names to classifying and appellative uses as common nouns, also in reductions to simplexes. Additionally, considering motivation and the semantic relations in the composite structures under scrutiny, it seems reasonable to suggest that associative meanings can be motivated metonymically based on extant cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge. This allows for complex descriptions which cannot be subsumed by individual attributive adjectives and appeal to the consumer’s symbolic needs. Regarding the potential for luxury fashion constructs and iconic products to be perceived as conveying intangible benefits, much turns out to be a matter of extant cultural and encyclopaedic knowledge (knowledge of brand, brand products, and style icons).

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This paper is part of a national research project financed by the Italian Ministry of University and Research, PRIN2020TJTA55. I would like to thank Élise Mignot, Manon Philippe and the anonymous reviewers for the very helpful comments on earlier versions.


1The purpose of this paper is to provide a qualitative investigation into complex English terms in the ever-changing history of fashion and customs. Apparel and accessories, textiles and details are key elements in the cultural landscape of any society. Trends, shapes, colors and styles vary over time, and pieces originally designed for particular purposes, occupations, times of the day, occasions, etc. may be short-lived, be recycled and adapted later, or eventually become timeless wardrobe staples (e.g., Coco Chanel’s famed little black dress or the inexpensive crisp white T-shirt) (Edwards [2017]).

  • 1 Within the economy of this paper, no effort is made to distinguish between compounds and phrases, i (...)

2In this context, we shall focus on nominal constructs1 with proper names as modifiers. Following Booij [2010], we define constructs as empirically attested tokens of constructions, or constructional schemas with different degrees of abstractness within a hierarchical lexicon, which unify properties at the phonological, syntactic and lexico-pragmatic levels, and form the bottom level of a specific pattern or schema. Our goal is to address motivation and semantics relations in individual proper name-common noun instantiations, with special attention to the functions of prototypical and non-prototypical proper names (Van Langendonck [2007]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2017]). This can be done based on the meanings of both proper names and appellative nouns as well as on socio-cultural and encyclopaedic knowledge.

  • 2 Given our data sources, we will not be dealing with deictic compounds (Downing [1977]).

3We have therefore selected data for discussion from a preliminary collection of around 300 lemmas and lexical units that were manually gathered from encyclopaedic dictionaries, visual dictionaries and landmark publications on the history of fashion, and paired with matching meaning descriptions.2 One major data source was the second edition of The Dictionary of Fashion History (DFH2), based on A Dictionary of English Costume 900-1900 by C.W. Cunnington, P.E. Cunnington and Charles Beard, and now completely revised, updated and supplemented to present day by Valerie Cumming [2017]. Other printed references comprise the Dictionnaire International de la Mode (DIM), edited by Bruno Remaury & Lydia Kamitsis [1994/2004], and Fashionary International’s [2021] Fashionpedia. The Visual Dictionary of Fashion Design [FAS]. Additional data comes from publications by the Victoria & Albert Museum of Design: Claire Wilcox & V.D. Mendes’s [2018] revised and expanded edition of 20th-Century Fashion in Detail [CFD20], Lucy Johnston’s [2018] reprint of 19th-Century Fashion in Detail [CFD19], and Susan North’s [2018] revised and expanded edition of 18th-Century Fashion in Detail [CFD18]. Examples also come from the electronic edition of Lydia Edwards’ [2017] How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century [HRD]. Finally, the Oxford English Dictionary online, 2nd and 3rd editions [OED], and the Internet were used to collect fashion terms and gather encyclopaedic information. To address multidenotativity and discuss the status and function of proprial and nonproprial lemmas (i.e., entries in the onomasticon and dictionary articles, respectively) in connection with proper names and appellative nouns, usage examples were collected restricting Google searches of fashion terms to English, with exact-match searches for complex fashion terms and commercial names.

4Integrating information from this varied set appears to be a sensible choice, in that it enables us to account for the fact that besides meeting a person’s functional needs, outfits serve as signifiers (Edwards [2017: 12] adapted), and help consumers project specific self-images (Okonkwo [2007: 62]). We proceed on the assumption that proper name-common noun constructs in fashion history may possess intangible attributes, provide complex descriptions (Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez [2007]) based on cultural and encyclopaedic knowledge of the proper name’s non-asserted referent (Cacchiani [in press]), and fulfill functions beyond the identifying or classifying uses typically attached to proper names and common nouns, respectively – for instance, signaling product value, brand personality and user status. Our aim is to capture categorical and associative meanings in nominal constructs with proprial or proprio-appellative lemmas as modifiers.

5Because proper names form a prototypical category and may turn into common nouns via appellativization, we need to define and describe both categories. Another reason for taking this step is that the literature on nominal compounds puts forth categories for nominal constructs with common nouns as modifiers, on which we can rely. Banking on Van Langendonck’s [2007] and Van Langendonck & Van de Velde’s [2016] work on proper names, Section 1 thus provides a working definition of proprial lemmas, appellative lemmas and proprio-appellative lemmas, proper names and common nouns. Multiple denotation / multidenotativity, metonymization and appellativization are also addressed. Section 2 turns to some relevant semantic relations in composite noun-noun structures. Our starting point will be Jackendoff’s [2010] list of basic functions. We then discuss the meanings and functions of proper names in fashion terms and commercial names in Section 3. Taking a cognitively-oriented approach, we understand meaning as the result of human cognitive experience, also comprising the individual’s social interaction with the world. The conceptual representation of reality is structured via Idealised Conceptual Models (ICMs) that organize our experience and inferential reasoning, including metaphor, metonymy (Lakoff [1987]) and metaphtonymy, or the varied interaction of the two (Goossens [1990]).

1. About proper names and common nouns

6This section introduces and explores key notions for the analysis of proper names vis-à-vis common nouns in fashion terms. The questions we address are: What are proper names and common nouns? What proper names modify nouns in fashion terms? And, third, how do we account for non-canonical cases of proper names and common nouns in fashion? To this end, we begin by outlining key notions from Van Langendonck’s ([2007]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]) authoritative Theory and Typology of Proper Names (Section 1.1.). More precisely, we shall define prototypical proper names and then discuss departures from core proper-namehood that are relevant to our investigation. Section 1.2. provides an outline of proper name categories that can be found as modifiers in complex fashion terms, while at the same time starting a discussion of appellativization and proprialization in fashion.

1.1. Key terms

7A standard assumption is that common nouns classify and proper names identify. More specifically, common nouns refer to a set, affirm their own basic category, and are stored in the mental lexicon as nonproprial, appellative lemmas (Van Langendonck [2007]).

8Proper names have a proprial lemma in the onomasticon. They are nouns and noun phrases that “denote a unique entity at the level of established linguistic convention, to make it psychosocially salient within a given basic level category [pragmatics]” (Van Langendonck [2007: 76-79]). Unlike common nouns, proper names presuppose the basic category (sensu Rosch [1978]) to which their referent belongs (Van Langendonck [2007: 76-79]). They individualize, identify and localize meanings (Van Langendonck [2007: 4, 131]) – which is apparent with personal names, bynames or place names, typically “construed as countable and nongeneric (i.e., non-recursive) NPs” (Van Langendonck [2007: 186]). Also, they “[do] not (or not any longer) determine [their] denotation [semantics]” (Van Langendonck [2007: 182]). It is precisely because proper names are definite, singular, nongeneric and concrete, that they can be seen as the unmarked members of the nominal category (Van Langendonck [2007]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]).

  • 3 Notice that Van Langendonck ([2007], Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]) talks about trade and b (...)

9Proper names are divided into subclasses based on our experience of the world, and these subcategories show diverse degrees of proper-namehood. That is, they take different positions on a cline of prototypicality (sensu Rosch [1978]). Prototypical proper names like personal names, place names and names of institutions, have a clear proprial lemma in the onomasticon, they occur in (close) appositional constructions (Van Langendonck [2007: 125-128]). Additionally, since prototypical proper names are inherent definite, they do not take a determiner (Van Langendonck [2007: 154-158]). Nonprototypical proper names, instead, comprise commercial names,3 names of letters, colors, numbers, and temporal names, with various kinds of lemmas that underlie their uses as appellatives, and even adjectives (Van Langendonck [2007: 184]).

10Proper names have a categorical meaning: they can be classified according to the basic-level category they presuppose. For instance, ‘man’ and ‘woman’ for names of human beings, ‘dog’ or ‘cat’ for animal names, ‘city’ and ‘country’ for place names. Other optional, additional meanings are possible (Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]: connotations). Emotive connotations may arise from the grammar of the word, in augmentatives, as well as hypochoristics and diminutives, often used as forms of endearment, for instance Charlie (<< Charles), Jakie O’ (<< Jaqueline Onassis), Syl (<< Sylvia).

11More interestingly for our purposes, associative meanings may be conveyed by the denotatum. The example provided by Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016: 31] is Barak Obama, in relation to his title as 44th U.S. President, his public image, electoral campaign, policies and the values he stood for. Another example is Napoleon, with associative content features like “the former Emperor of France” or “the loser at Waterloo” (Van Langendonck [2007: 93-97]). Based on our cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge of the ruthless world historical figure that sacrificed thousands of human beings to build an empire, we may also want to use Napoleon as a common noun for a ruthless person that could sacrifice anybody to achieve supremacy in their field of expertise. Hence, figurative uses like “a Napoleon of crime” [OED: Napoleon, n.2., 1]. These mechanisms are grounded in the interaction of operational and non-operational Idealised Conceptual Models (Lakoff [1987]), which organize our experience and inferential reasoning:

  • Non-operational ICMs comprise propositional frames, which “specify elements, their properties, and the relations holding among them”, and image-schematic models, which structure experience based on schematic images such as trajectories, shapes or containers (Lakoff [1987: 113]).

  • Operational ICMs comprise metaphoric models and metonymic models. Metaphoric models are “mappings from a propositional or image-schematic model in one domain to a corresponding structure in another domain”. Metonymic models are “models of one or more of the above types, together with a function from one element of the model to another” (Lakoff [1987: 113-114]).

  • Metaphtonymy (Goossens [1990]) describes the intertwining and varied interaction of the two operations.

12Metonymic reasoning, we shall see, takes pride of place in our analysis. The relevant literature provides several classifications of metonymic operations (see, e.g., Littlemore’s [2015] review of work by Radden & Kövecses [1999], Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez [2007] and other key contributions, or Benczes’s [2006] work on creative compounding). For our purposes, however, additional subtypes will have to be added, including place for style and celebrity for style.

13Multidenotativity, appellativization and proprialization can be accounted for in terms of metonymy to different extents. Proper names may exhibit multidenotativity (also, multiple denotativity; Van Langendonck [2007: 129]) and presuppose referents from different categories. This is the case of Charlie and Max, which can function as personal names and pet names:

(1) Charlie: uncle Charlie [personal name], Charlie the dog [animal name]; Max: Max, Timon’s uncle [personal name], Max the dog [animal name]

14Notice, however, that multidenotativity can also concern proprio-appellative lemmas – or proprial lemmas that are commonly found as proper names, as common nouns that denote different sets, and in attributive position (Van Langendonck [2007: 99-102]. The process whereby proper names – and prototypical proper names in particular – come to serve as appellatives and even function as adjectives in non-proprial words, is called appellativization (Van Langendonck [2007: 96]). One such example is (2). While Charlie functions as a proper name in (1), in (2) it is shown that Charlie can be an occupational noun [OED: Charley | Charlie, n., 1]), an evaluative noun having to do with behaviour or a person’s mental/emotional qualities [OED: Charley | Charlie, n., 6]), a generic noun for a person or for a thing/object [OED: Charley | Charlie, n., Draft additions 2014, Draft additions 2001]), and even an adjective [OED: Charley | Charlie, n., 9].

(2) Charlie [common noun; adjective]
Charley | Charlie, n.
1. […] a night-watchman. (The origin is unknown: some have conjectured ‘because Charles I in 1640 extended and improved the watch system in [London]’. [common noun; occupation]; […]
6. A fool, simpleton,
esp. a proper, right Charley. slang. [common noun; derogatory]; […]
- Draft additions 2014. Originally and chiefly
U.S. A person, esp. a man. [common noun; person] […]
- Draft additions 2001.
slang (originally U.S.). Cocaine. [common noun; thing]
9. Used as adjective: Afraid, cowardly,
esp. in to turn Charlie. slang. [evaluative adjective] [OED: Charley | Charlie, n.]

15Consider also examples (3) to (5). Jane functions as a personal name in (3), a common noun in (4) and an adjective in plain Jane (5). In (3), Jane presupposes the basic categorical meaning ‘woman’; cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge suggests the associative meaning ‘very common and ordinary female name’. On these grounds, it is reasonable to assume that the common noun jane (4) is derived via metonymization (and the metonymy salient property for category) from the proper name Jane. Turning to plain Jane (5), its use in attributive position may be derived by a combination of metaphor and phonetic motivation. Jane is a metaphor for plainness, based on associative meanings grounded in cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge of Charlotte Brönte’s novel, Jane Eyre, and Jane Eyre’s plain looks. Secondly, phonetic repetition in a rhyming compound (/ˌpleɪn ˈʤeɪn/) can be interpreted metonymically as a form of semantic reinforcement (‘unadorned, ordinary, plain, undistinguished’).

(3) Jane [given name, with proprial lemma and ad-hoc denotation]
‘Come here, Miss Jane: your name is Jane, is it not?’
‘Yes, sir; Jane Eyre.’ (Charlotte Brönte, 2006 [1847], Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics, p. 27)

(4) jane [noun]
jane, n.2 slang (originally U.S.).
A woman, girl, girlfriend.
‘Who was this jane? Anybody I know?’ ‘No one you know... She had been a nurse in San Francisco.’ [OED: Jane, n.2]

(5) plain jane [adjective]
Plain Jane, […] adj. (also plain Jane)
[…] (b) adj. unadorned, simple, ordinary, undistinguished.
Jo doesn’t get to wear anything too lacy. It’s plain-Jane stuff throughout. [OED: plain, adj.2. Compounds, C3]

16Common nouns and noun phrases can undergo proprialization, i.e., become proprial lemmas and lose their initial semantic motivation (Van Langendonck [2007: 292]). Consider, for instance, the relation of the occupational nouns and nouns of things within the related propositional frames (6) to the family names in (7): a baker is a person who bakes things professionally, for example white bread. At some point, bynames with a transparent origin in the common noun were formed, and found in given name + byname combinations, e.g., Francis “the Baker” or Francis “Whitebread”. In the gradual process of onymization – the gradual evolution into a name; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016: 33]) – the Baker and Whitebread were semantically bleached, so that they could continue to be used when the name bearer was no longer a baker. That is, family names like Baker and Whitebread no longer denote the original occupation, either directly or via metonymy. In like manner, a weaver is a person who weaves cloth and fabric professionally, and web is a piece of woven fabric, but the family names Weaver and Webb have entirely lost their connection to the initial denotation:

(6) baker [noun of occupation]; white bread [noun, white bread, made with weath flour]; weaver [noun of occupation]; web [noun, with meanings related to cloth or the structure of woven fabric]

(7) Baker [family name]: Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker Jr., American jazz trumpetist and vocalist; Whitebread [family name]; Weaver [family name]: Warren Weaver, American scientist and mathematician; Webb [family name]: James E. Webb, NASA administrator from 1961 to 1968

17Common nouns and noun phrases can be construed as proper names of songs, books, films, works of art and other artifacts (Van Langendonck [2007: 99]) as in (8):

(8) Team [proper name, song; Lorde, 2013]; The Testaments [proper name, book; Margaret Atwood, 2019]; Parasite [proper name, film; Bong Joon-Ho, 2019]; Slave Labour [proper name, graffiti; Bansky, 2012]

18Importantly, the distinction between proper name and proprial lemma is key when dealing with brand, company and product names (Van Langendonck [2007]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]). Lemmas such as Ford are proprio-appellatives, in that they are commonly construed as proper name and common noun, and mutidenotative, due to their ability to presuppose or express individuals in different categories (Van Langendonck [2007: 69-70]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016: 35, examples (40), (41)]), as in (9). All constructs are related metonymically.

(9) Ford founded a car industry. [family name; creator/founder name]; Ford is an American car company. [company name]; Ford is a familiar brand. [company name and product name; brand name]; Jane bought a Ford yesterday. [defining sense; product noun]

19These are target-in-source metonymic expressions, which correlate with the cognitive operation of domain-reduction (Pérez Hernández [2011], drawing on Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez [2010]): the target is a subdomain of the source (matrix domain), which serves as a reference point for one of its subdomains. More to the point, brand naming in (9) hinges on a double-domain reduction operation (founder name for company name for product name). Because domain reduction operations highlight the complete matrix domain, the (prospective) customer conceptualizes the product as inheriting the positive attributes and the relevant conceptual material of the broader frame – i.e., notions that characterize the company as a whole.

1.2. Proper names and common nouns in the fashion domain

20Following the discussion in Section 1.1., we are now able to take an initial look at proper names and common nouns in fashion. Let us start with given names and family names, which are highly represented in our collection of fashion terms. Consider, for one, Alexandra in (10) and (11):

(10) Alexandra [given name; attributive]
Alexandra, n.
I. Compounds.
1. Designating things popularized by or associated with Princess (later Queen) Alexandra (1844-1925), consort of Edward VII. Now chiefly historical. (OED:
Alexandra, n., I. Compounds. 1)

(11) Alexandra jacket
Period: 1863.
A day jacket without a centre back seam, the front with a small revers and a collar, the sleeves with epaulettes and cuffs.
Presumably named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925), who married the Prince of Wales in 1863; various “Alexandra” and “princess” styles were named after this elegant woman. (
DHF2: Alexandra jacket)

21While the personal name Alexandra presupposes the basic category ‘woman’, as a modifier in fashion terms it takes attributive uses, based on associative meanings arising from things and styles popularized and linked to the historical figure Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

22Family names are also frequent, and most often used in commercial names, and company names in particular. Recall from Section 1.1. that commercial names are nonprototypical names and are also multidenotative: company holder and founder, company name and common noun, are all linked via metonymy, as in the Ford examples in (9). Consider Burberry in (12) to (14). Burberry is a company name, related metonymically to the company founder, Thomas Burberry (13), and only recently renamed Burberrys. (13) also accounts for the uses of Burberry as a registered trademark (The Burberry, a waterproof cotton fabric), and the example in (14) for its use as a product noun with a defining sense, where a Burberry has the same meaning as the classic Burberry trench coat in (15), with Burberry as a modifier. Any association about this iconic wardrobe staple comes from our cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge of the company, product and brand, partly overlapping with the information provided in (13). All meanings are linked via metonymic operations, including producer for product and founder name for company name for product name. The shift from the registered trademark as a salient feature of the Burberry coat to the coat itself is motivated by a part for whole metonymy. Associative meanings also comprise a reputation for ‘chic and practical classy outwear’:

(12) Burberry [family name], and Burberry | Burberrys [company name], as in a/the Burberry trench coat

(13) Burberry [company name]
Period: 1856-1900.
A firm founded in England by Thomas Burberry [founder; original name bearer], (1835-1926), with a specific association with a proofed, cotton basic fabric called gabardine which was used for rainproof clothing. A London-based business was started in 1891 and the various garments produced were aimed at country and leisure pursuits.
Period: 1900 onwards.
Two trademarks were registered in 1902 and 1909, gabardine and The Burberry [product name], respectively, the latter referring to the coats it manufactured. The military coats of the 1914-1918 war included the distinctive trench coat, a classic style much copied and worn in civilian life.
In the latter part of the 20
th century the distinctive, checked lining was used for accessories including bags, hats and scarves, and the company enjoyed a revival with new fashion lines in the late 1990s. (DFH2: Burberry)

(14) Burberry [company name; product name]
Burberry, n.
A proprietary name for: cloth or clothing made by the firm of Burberrys Ltd.; spec. a raincoat made by this firm. Also in form Burberrys (a proprietary name in the United Kingdom). […]
‘It’s raining, you know.’ ‘I know, I’ve got a Burberry.’ (OED: Burberry, n.)

23Burberry can occupy the modifier position, as in (15):

(15) The classic Burberry trench coat evolved in six silhouettes. Shop the latest range. Discover the Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Waterloo, Pimlico, & Islington. (Burberry [2022])

24A similar example is Birkenstock ((16) and (17)): company name, product name, and register trademark are linked via metonymy to the factory founder and product creator Adam Birkenstock. Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of its timeless and practical styles over the years, the family and shoemaking business name has come to stand for the product itself (producer for product). The original footbed itself is called Birkenstock (part for whole).

(16) Birkenstock sandals
: 1967 onwards.
The name derives from a German firm of shoemakers who can trace their history back to the late 18
th century. In the early 20th century a contoured arch was developed, the first to be placed into footwear. This was the origin of the Birkenstock sandal, known in Europe before being produced in the USA and marketed worldwide after 1967. In addition to sandals, there are shoes with the same distinctive arch support. (DFH2: Birkenstock sandals)

(17) Signature styles | Shop online at BIRKENSTOCK Footbed
BIRKENSTOCK sandals and clogs boast a timeless and sleek design, premium materials and outstanding functionality.
What they all have in common: the original footbed
The original BIRKENSTOCK Footbed, found in all BIRKENSTOCK sandals and shoes, is made in Germany and delivers comfort all day long. (Birkenstock [2022])

25Notice that, while being the parent of comfort shoes in the USA and other countries, Birkenstocks – the name commonly used for sandals made by the Birkenstock Company (Brickell [2022]) – does not appear to have become the name and common noun used for comfort shoes in general, knock-offs and Birkenstock fakes.

26Place names are a different case of inferential reasoning. They can take an attributive function in fashion terms, with modifier selection based on metonymies such as place for product made there, place for product used there, or more simply, place for style (of people who lived / met / did something there). Such terms may go all the way to form reductions to the left, as in the fashion term Ascot ((18) via a metonymic chain from Ascot tie, (19): place for event for style for accessory; see Section 3), or the fashion term balaclava, from Balaclava helmet, named after the Crimean village of Balaclava ((20): place for product used there; (21): place for style):

(18) Ascot [place name; attributive]
Ascot, n.
Used elliptically for a fashionable race-meeting held at Ascot Heath in June; frequently attributive, applied esp. to hats, dresses, etc., designed for or suitable for wearing in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.
Ascot tie (see quot. 1957); also, U.S., simply Ascot. (OED: Ascot, n.)

(19) Ascot tie
Period: 1876 onwards.
The plain form of this was similar to the Octagon tie. The “Puffed Ascot” was puffed out in the centre. Both versions, usually of patterned silk, were often self-tied but some were ready made-up. (
DFH2: Ascot tie)

(20) Balaclava [common noun]
Period: 1854 onwards.
A woolen cap which covered the head and neck leaving the face revealed; worn by military personnel and named after the Crimean village of Balaclava where the battle was fought in 1854. (
DFH2: balaclava)

(21) Balaclava [elliptical common noun]
balaclava, n.
Balaclava helmet (also Balaclava cap): a woollen covering for the head and neck worn esp. by soldiers on active service. Also elliptical. (OED: balaclava, n.)

27Consider also the bikini bathing costume (22), another fashion term, associated with the Bikini Atoll [place name] (place for product used there; place for style):

(22) bikini [common noun]
Period: 1946 onwards.
A two-piece bathing costume supposedly named after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Although such bathing costumes had been worn earlier in the century (and by female Roman wrestlers much earlier), this version, designed by French engineer Louis Réard, was more abbreviated and set a trend for decreasing usage of fabric and maximum exposure of flesh. (
DFH2: bikini)

28Still staying with islands, proper names that serve as modifiers and take on attributive functions via the metonymies place for product made there and place for style are Fair Isle ((23) and (24)), or Aran in Aran knitwear (25) (see also Section 3):

(23) Fair Isle
One of the Shetland Islands, which has given its name to a style of knitted pattern found on jumpers, gloves, etc. Traditional forms and colours were originally used for local use, but a wider range developed from the mid-19th century onwards as the designs became fashionable beyond the island. (DFH2: Fair Isle)

(24) Shop for Fair Isle Women’s knitwear at John Lewis & Partners (John Lewis [2022])

(25) Aran knitwear
Period: 9th century onwards.
A distinctive style of knitting found in the Aran islands which used thick unbleached wool and incorporating raised motifs including bobbles, cables and twists. There are different traditions and patters to the East and West coasts of Scotland and Ireland. One tradition produced horizontal patterns, another produced vertical patterns. Originally produced as sweaters for fishermen, from the mid-20
th century the motifs have been used on other informal garments, such as cardigans, coats, etc., and have been copied in different countries.
Guernsey. (DFH2: Aran knitwear)

29Due to their ability to occur in close appositional constructions, and be construed both as proper names and as common nouns, letters and numbers are characterized as nonprototypical names in Van Langendonck [2007]. Though letters are most often found as classifying modifiers in complex terms (A-line jeans, T-shirt) based on a similarity relation, numerals can function more readily as common nouns in commercial names, e.g., Levi’s 501 / Levi’s 501s and 501/501s (26).

(26) A-line jeans [common noun]; T-shirt; Levi’s 501, Levi’s 501s [company name + product name in an onomastic genitive construction], 501, 501s [product name]; Chanel N°5 [company name + product name], N°5; Gucci II [company name + fragrance name] (see example (32)); 2.55 [product name; Chanel’s iconic bag; see Section 3, example (64)]

30According to Van Langendonck [2007] another nonprototypical category comprises color names. They are common as attributives in classificatory fashion terms, as in Coco Chanel’s little black dress or the inexpensive crisp white T-shirt (27), but can sometimes function as names in juxtapositions as well, for instance, as names of fragrances in (28). Notice that all fragrance names in (28) inherit attributes that characterize the brand as a whole (and, therefore, all brand products) from the company name, including those of ‘luxury’, ‘class’ and ‘selectiveness’. The same holds true of Chanel N°5 and Gucci II in (26).

(27) little black dress [common noun], crisp white T-shirt [adjective and common noun]

(28) Chanel Bleu [company name + fragrance name], Bleu [fragrance name] de Chanel, Bleu [fragrance name]; Hugo Boss Dark Blue [company name + fragrance name]; My Burberry Black [fragrance name << determiner + company name + colour name]; Gris Dior [fragrance name + company name], Gris [fragrance name]

31If we now turn to common nouns, proprialization is standard practice with commercial names such as company names and names of retailers, e.g., (29):

(29) Oasis; Topshop (formerly Top Shop, now exclusively operating online); Designer Revival (high-end consignment boutique)

32Aquascutum is another example:

(30) Aquascutum
Period: 1850 onwards.
Along with Burberry, a name synonymous with rainwear since the 19
th century. Originally an English tailoring firm funded in 1951 by John Emary and widely known after he introduced a waterproof garment in 1853; this London-based business became internationally celebrated during the 1914-1918 war when they provided waterproof trench coats for British officers to wear. An innovative approach with new fabrics, processes and styles has ensured that the firm has retained its reputation for chic but practical outwear while adding many other product ranges.
Classic style. (DFH2: Aquascutum)

33Unlike Burberry, Aquascutum, formed from Latin, describes a patented waterproof wool (En. ‘watershield, Lit.’). Metonymies such as fabric/part for product/whole and fabric for company name motivate the shift from patent name and registered trademark to product and company name, all the way to brand name, for a range of products and accessories produced over more than one century. While, in principle, both Aquascutum and Burberry might have come to stand for the semantic category presupposed by their most iconic product (trench coats) (Cacchiani [in press]), multiple Google searches restricted to English do not appear to provide evidence for this.

34We conclude from the above that mutidenotativity is a typical feature of commercial names: proper names may refer to the company itself, its founder, the company owner, various products and, of course, registered trademarks and innovations (e.g., The Burberry, in (12)-(15)). Combinations of company name and product name are also possible. They appear to instantiate a recurrent schema with products such as premium luxury fragrances (e.g., (28), with color names; (26), (32), Gucci II) or iconic accessories like bags (e.g., Gucci Jakie (O’) in (31)), where relevant and/or representative attributes of the brand pass on to the product:

(31) Jackie (O’) bag [product name + product category], Jackie (O’) [product name with inherent category] >> Hermés Jackie (O’) [company name + product name] (see Section 3).

35Brand names may refer to several products. Yet, context and/or cotext appear to make the presupposed category immediately clear, e.g., ‘fragrance’ – and not ‘bag’ – in (32):

(32) you smell nice, are you you wearing burberry? (sic) [category: fragrance]
No, … its Gucci II. (sic) (Meme Generator [2022])

36Broadly, multidenotativity results from a shift from family names of bespoke tailors and luxury fashion designers to their companies and products via double-domain reduction metonymic operations (Section 1.1., example (9)). All company products receive a unified denomination and inherit, we have seen, brand attributes. In the given interaction, the words ‘you smell nice’ restrict burberry’s categorical meaning to any of their products in the fragrance and perfume sector – Burberry for women, Burberry Her, Burberry Hero, (Burberry) Weekend pour Femme, (Burberry) Weekend for Men, My Burberry Black, My Burberry Blush, Burberry Body, etc. Gucci II restricts the possible range to fragrances and perfumes for women.

37Going a bit further, the examples suggest that associative meanings in fashion terms and commercial names range from styles and designs related to specific functional needs (e.g., balaclava in (21), or Aran knitwear in (25)) to appealing to the symbolic needs of consumers. The idea is that proprial lemmas help provide complex descriptions (Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez [2007]) based on cultural and encyclopaedic knowledge that changes over time and market segments (Cacchiani [in press]). They can therefore contribute to signaling product value, brand personality and, once acquired, user status. For instance, Acquascutum (30) and, more to the point, Burberry (13), currently come with meanings such as “prototypically British”, “classy”, “chic” and “practical”; the link to military coats and WWI is now lost. Similarly, Birkenstock sandals ((16) and (17)) are comfort shoes, and the epitome of ugly shoes. And yet, they are now ‘granola chic’, and all the rage among fashionistas and celebrities (Satenstein [2021]).

38This, of course, resonates with the central tenet in the field of luxury brand naming that names of apparels, details and accessories are readily interpreted as appealing not only to the functional needs of the consumer (if at all) but also to

the symbolic needs [of the consumer, which] involve intangible benefits linked with the[ir] emotional and psychological decisions. These include fulfilling ego and self-esteem needs, reinforcing social status and projecting a self-image. The self-image extends from the consumer’s true self, that is who they truly are; their ideal self, that is who they would like to be, and their social self, that is who they would like others to think they are. (Okonkwo [2007: 62]; emphasis added)

39The question arises, then as to what the role of proper name modifiers in nominal compounds – which are type specifying by default – is; and, more particularly, whether and to what extent name modifiers come with associative meanings that can be derived inferentially, with attributes and desirable properties that are expected to determine perceptions of brand and/or product quality in commercial names.

2. Nominal constructs with common noun as modifier

40Before we can explore in detail categorical and associative meanings in nominal constructs with proper names as modifiers (Section 3), we need to briefly address the semantic relations that arise between modifier and head. For a first approximation, it seems reasonable to adapt Jackendoff’s [2010] work on noun-noun compounds to complex fashion terms. For simplicity, we shall proceed equipped with a list of semantic relations for which we only provide informal paraphrases. Multiple interpretations may coexist for the same construct.

41ARGUMENT schemas can be paraphrased as ‘N2 of/by N1’ (33):

(33) hairstyle, wardrobe color (Jackendoff [2010: 436]), dress reform, hemline, mail order, sleeve length

42Other examples are given in (34) and (35). (34) evokes the paraphrase ‘someone who Vs N1’, (35) the paraphrase ‘something that someone Vs N1 with’:

(34) dressmaker; fashion designer

(35) all-rounder ‘A rigid stand collar attached to the neck and completely encircling the neck.’ (DFH2: all rounder), bust improver, corset cover, leg warmers, trouser stretcher

43CLASSIFY is the loosest possible relation in [NN1-N2] compounds. The modifier restricts the denotational scope of the head, via type specification: ‘N1 classifies N2’. This is the default relation for nominal compounds, and other paraphrases can be added. For instance, the semantic relation in sack dress (36) is SIMILAR (‘N2 that is similar to an N1’):

(36) Sack dress
: 1960 onwards.
A loose, short dress, often shaped into a narrower hemline. Designed by the Spanish couturier Cristobàl Balenciaga (1895-1972), it was copied by other designers and makers. (
DFH2: sack dress)

44N1 denotes shape and an image metaphor is activated along with the metonymy salient property for category. These are very common conceptualizations in fashion terms, for items of apparel (37), details (38), and accessories (39) (Cacchiani [in press]):

(37) bell bottoms; cocoon coat, tent coat; bib dress, bubble dress, column dress, petal dress, tube dress; fishtail skirt

(38) olive button; horseshoe collar, petal collar; wing cuff; funnel neckline, horse-shoe neck/neckline; balloon sleeve, batwing sleeve, bell sleeve, crescent sleeve, elephant sleeve [in the shape of an elephant ear], mushroom sleeve

(39) box bag, bucket bag; cateye (glasses); cartwheel hat, mushroom hat; boa (scarf)

45It is interesting to note that the modifiers in bib dress, bubble dress and petal dress (37) only denote the most distinctive parts (or details) of the dresses. This is where we combine the semantic relations SIMILAR, HAS and PART in ‘N2 that has N1 as a part’ & ‘N2 is similar to N1’. Cateye glasses (39) is also interpreted along the same lines: cateye maps one visual image onto another one, and thus likens rims and lenses to the shape of the ‘feline eyeline style’ in cosmetics (FAS: Eyeline styles) and the shape of cats’ eyes in nature. Still staying with image metaphors, bell bottoms ((37) and (40)) involves mapping the shape of a bell onto the shape of the bottom of a pair of trousers, with a part for whole metonymy. More to the point, if we do not see bottoms and trousers as synonyms – which would most definitely be the case with a two-piece garment – bell bottoms involves mapping the shape of the whole bell onto the whole leg and perspectivizing the most perceptually salient part of the leg, i.e., the bottom:

(40) Bell bottoms
: 1960s onwards.
Sailors traditionally wore trousers that flared out from knee to ankle but, in terms of fashion, this style appeared in the 1960s with an exaggeratedly tight fit on the upper leg and a wide bottom flare. (
DFH2: bell bottoms)

  • 4 Because we are interested in common nouns and proper names as modifiers, we set aside the very many (...)

46Another common semantic relation in fashion terms involves LOCATION (BE AT/IN/ON…), which can be approached from different perspectives.4 Besides being located in space (41), N1 can be located in time (42), via the metaphor time periods are containers. In (43), the underlying metaphor is activities are bounded regions in space. In (44), social occasions are conceptualized as as special kinds of temporal location. To interpret the constructs, however, we still need to incorporate material from the PROPER FUNCTION of N2 (PF), which we understand as “having been ‘designed to’ or being ‘supposed to’ perform a certain function” (Millikan [1984: 17], in Jackendoff [2010: 431]). Nouns that denote artifacts and parts of artifacts typically have a proper function.

  • 5 For a somewhat more intricate case in this set, let us take trench coat. Saying that N2 (coat) is i (...)

47Accordingly, we can posit the following paraphrase for deck shoes and the compounds in (41): ‘N2 whose PF is to be used/worn on/in/at N1’, where N1 is a place.5 N1 is a time period in (42), an activity in (43) and an activity/social occasion taking place at a specific time of the day in (44):

(41), court dress and court shoes, deck shoe ‘A shoe that does not slip on the deck of a boat or ship.’ (DFH2: deck shoe), office-wear

(42) day dress, evening dress, morning dress and nightgown; daywear and nightwear, nightgown and the now forgotten night-cap

(43) ballet dress and ballet flats/pumps/slippers; baseball cap; shooting coat; work-from-home (outfit); cycling pants and cycling shorts; running shoe; swimsuit; skiwear

(44) cocktail dress; dinner jacket, tea jacket

48Another set of [NN1-N2] constructs specifies the intended possessor of N2. Accordingly, the examples in (45), which denote apparel, details and accessories related to specific occupations, can be interpreted as evoking the function HAVE, where the head-modifier relation is CHARACTERISTIC (CHAR): ‘N2 that N1 characteristically has’:

(45) sailor blouse, sailor collar, sailor hat, sailor pants, sailor suit; cowboy boot, cowboy hat, cowboy jacket, cowboy pants

49Apparel and accessories are artifacts, and artifacts, we have argued, are made of parts. It is no surprise, therefore, that many constructs in our collection can be interpreted in terms of PARTS AND BOUNDARIES functions. For instance, we can posit a PART relation ‘N2 that has N1 as a part’ for the set of examples in (46), and COMPOSITION (COMP) in (47), where ‘N2 is composed of N1’:

(46) corset dress, shirt dress, strap dress; pant suit, skirt suit

(47) denim dungarees; sheepskin coat/jacket, sheepskin, bearskin hat, bearskin

50It should be noted at this point that reductions to the left like sheepskin and bearskin are based upon a part for whole metonymy and salient property for category. Yet, whereas sheepskin coats might come in different shapes, the bearskin is the tall, iconic hat, made of black fur and worn by the British soldiers parading outside Buckingham Palace at the Changing of the Guards ceremony. We can therefore readily assume a culture-specific Bearskin Hat ICM (Benczes [2006]).

3. Nominal constructs with proper name as modifier

51Section 1 showed that multidenotativity results from a shift from family names of (bespoke tailors and luxury) fashion designers to their companies and products – that is, via conceptual operations such as the producer for product metonymy and, more to the point, double-domain reduction metonymic operations. The discussion also brought to the fore another interesting feature: common nouns may turn into commercial names via proprialization, and come to denote multiple entities via metonymy (e.g., Aquascutum, (26)). Conversely, proper names may undergo appellativization and turn into common nouns, e.g., in simplexes like bikini, (22), from a place name, or function as modifiers in complex terms (e.g., Alexandra jacket, (11)). As a second step, in Section 2 we have treated frequent semantic relations in fashion terms that are [NN1-N2] compounds. We can now move on to explore motivation, categorical and associative meanings in fahion terms with proper names as modifiers, with an eye to commercial names with proprial lemmas.

52SIMILARITY to physical objects, we have seen in sack dress (36) and the sets of examples from (37) to (40), is a key semantic relation in nominal constructs with common nouns as modifiers. This suggests that when it comes to coining fashion terms, SHAPE is the most important of all physical attributes. As clothing is designed around the human body, we can readily assume the Human Body ICM to play a key part in coining fashion terms. More particularly, male and female figures are found to be shaped into a number of silhouettes and lines, via metaphoric mappings based on image-schematic shapes from a number of familiar source domains, including architecture and building. Fashion terms follow suit (e.g., column dress, tent coat, (37)). Among proprio-appellative lemmas, alphabet letter shapes are used as modifers in nominal constructs (48):

(48) A-line (dress/silhouette), H-line (dress/silhouette), I-line (dress/silhouette), Y-line (dress/silhouette); T-shirt

53Associative meanings only develop based on interation with specific designs, our encyclopaedic knowledge of the fashion sector and the socio-cultural dimension of fashion. For the general public, this is more likely to take place around the time a given trend, design, style or fad is in fashion. Thus, the general public today is not likely to regard dresses like A-line dresses/silhouettes ((48) and (49)) – introduced by fashion designer Christian Dior (1905-1957) after WWII and part of the French ‘New Look’ fashion trend – as ultra-feminine garments. Or, to take an opposite achievement, we can wear a (variant of the) sack dress (36) – one of Balenciaga’s most prominent and imitated signature looks – just because it is practical, not because it was originally designed by Balenciaga, nor because it originally represented a highly experimental and radical innovation, clearly intended to liberate women from the hourglass shape (Arzalluz [n.d]). Or, as far as T-shirts ((48) and (50)) are concerned, we associate them with comfort, convenience and a casual style, though not with their use during WWI:

(49) A-line
: 1955.
One of three lines (H, A and Y) introduced by French designer Christian Dior (1905-1957) between 1954 and 1955. The A-line was a reworking of the 1954 H-line and coats, dresses and suits with this cut formed a triangle from shoulder to hem, with the cross-bar of the A below the bust or on the waist or hips. (
DFH2: A-line)

(50) T-shirt
Period: 20th century onwards.
A term originally applied to a simple, short-sleeved, round-necked, cotton jersey vest worn below other garments. Possibly European in origin, the T-shirt became popular with American servicemen during World War I who recognized how useful it was in different climates and conditions. Its versatility led to it being produced in colours and patterns and worn as a casual lightweight top by men, women and children from the mid-20
th century.
Also called
Tee. (DFH2: T-shirt)

54In our treatment of [NN1-N2] fashion terms (Section 2), we have briefly addressed locative relations (e.g., court dress, day dress, ballet dress, cocktail dress, (41)-(44)), also pointing out the case of (partial) loss of the original semantic motivation. This was the case of trench coat (footnote 5), from military garment to utility coat. If we now combine trench coat with the brand Burberry ((12)-(15)), the associative meanings that arise at present are ‘wardrobe staple, classy elegance, characteristically British style’, and the original proper function – ‘to be worn in trenches’ – is lost.

55When the modifier is a place name (Section 1.1.), it can take on an attributive function, for instance via the metonymy place for style, as in Fair Isle, for a style of knitted pattern ((23) and (24)), or Aran in Aran knitwear (25). Both can be easily analysed as ‘N2 characteristically made in Name1 (by locals)’, which minimally involves a place for producer metonymy. Based on encyclopaedic knowledge of distinctive yarn, patterns and intended users we can also identify a place for style metonymy.

56Recall that for Ascot (18), from Ascot tie (19), we have argued for a place for event for style for accessory metonymy. The semantic relation in Ascot tie is ‘N2 whose PF is to be worn at place Name1’, and the association with positive attributes in the fields of Status, Wealth and Elegance (Cotticelli-Kurras [2013]) is grounded in the place for style metonymy and what we may want to call the Ascot Racecourse ICM. Ascot (Racecourse) is a legendary venue and a brand name by itself.

57Capri pants ((51) and (52)) are not made in Capri, but became popular for being worn there in the 1950s. At the time, an adequate paraphrasis would have been ‘N2 that is characteristically worn at place Name1’. The association with positive attributes in the fields of Status, Wealth and Elegance (Cotticelli-Kurras [2013]) was grounded in the place for style metonymy, the Elegant Resort ICM, cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge about celebrities and socialites choosing Capri as a holiday destination, and of the Italian Dolce Vita. Since this shining past is long gone, Capri pants is more likely interpreted as a classificatory compound, unless the decoder shares knowledge of fashion history:

(51) Capri pants
: 1950s onwards.
Close-fitting trousers reaching to just above the ankle, not dissimilar to leggings, but usually of a sturdier fabric. An American style popularized by the film star Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) in various films, such as
Roman Holiday (1953) and Funny Face (1957). (DFH2: Capri pants)

(52) Capri Pants
With legs cropped at mid-calf length, Capri pants are a favourite style worn in a warm weather. First introduced in 1948 by European fashion designer Sonja de Lennart, Capri pants were named after the Italian Isle of Capri, where they became highly sought after in the late 1950s to the early 60s. American actress Grace Kelly helped popularize the style as she was one of the first movie stars to wear them on the island. (
FAS: Apparel, Pants)

58Empire line (53) and Delphos dress (54) are slightly different examples. But then again, their full understanding hinges on cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge. They can be interpreted against the Classical Dress ICM, which we regularly experience because of appearances of custom reconstructions in period films and TV productions, and of designer reinterpretations as seen at mediatized events:

(53) Empire line
Period: ca. 1800-1820
The term is usually applied to the high-waisted, narrow and sinuous dresses worn by fashionable women throughout Europe during this period, and associated with the period of Napoleon’s rule in France as First Consul and Emperor. Later revivals in the 1890s and in the 20
th century, and its regular appearance in films and on television, have given it a classic status. (DFH2: Empire line)

(54) Delphos dress, Delphos gown
Period: ca. 1907-ca. 1970.
A style of dress created by the Spanish artist and designer Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949). It paid homage to the simplicity of classical dress, using a method of pleating thin silk, which was patented in Paris in 1909, and weighting the dress together with thin cords and glass beads. The silk was coloured with natural dyes. These dresses were worn by artists, musicians and performers as a form of artistic or aesthetic dress and enjoyed a revival when they became desirable acquisitions for collections in the 1970s and later. (
DFH2: Delphos dress, Delphos gown)

59Empire is a temporal location and has an attributive function in Empire line (53), with meaning associations that have come down to the present, first and foremost an idea of ‘classical simplicity’. Simplicity and classical style are also a feature of the Delphos dress (54), inspired by, and named after, a classical Greek statue, the Charioteer of Delphi (place for artefact). Here, the conceptual metonymy place for style enables fashion professionals and fashionistas alike to arrive at a complex description of the dress (sensu Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez [2007]). In the fashion industry, they represent specific subkinds.

60Let us now move on to constructs with personal names, and given names in particular, that occupy the modifier position. Although a basic CLASSIFY function (‘Name1 classifies N2’) might at first sight appear to fill out and specify the semantic relation in the constructs at hand, this only returns a partial picture. Indeed, Schlücker ([2016]; based on Warren [1978] and Ortner & Müller-Bolhagen [1991]) has argued for enriching CLASSIFY with a COMMEMORATIVE relation (COMM) ‘Noun2 in named after Name1’ as part of the semantic-conceptual structure of compounds like Alexandra jacket in (11), or the set of analogues in ((55) and (56)), which denote items of apparel, details and accessories.

61The fashion terms in (55) were given the name of Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha (1819-1861) after 1840, when he became the consort of Queen Victoria (56):

(55) Albert boots (Period: 1840-ca. 1870); Albert collar (Period: ca. 1850 to early 20th century); Albert driving cape, Albert sac (Period: 1860 to early 20th century); Albert jacket (Period: ca. 1848); Albert overcoat (Period: 1877); Albert riding coat (Period: 1881); Albert slipper (Period: After 1840); Albert top frock (Period: ca. 1860-1900); Albert watch chain (Period: 1860 to 1900) (DFH2)

(56) Albert slipper
: after 1840.
A slipper with an extended vamp in the form of a tongue covering the foot; named after Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha (1819-1861), consort of Queen Victoria. Many items of clothing were given his name after his marriage to Victoria in 1840. (
DFH2: Albert slipper)

62Prince Albert ((55) and (56)) and Princess Alexandra (Section 1.2., examples (10) and (11)) were trendsetters and style icons for a number of items of male and female clothing which only rarely outlasted the end of the Victorian Age. They served as prototypes and, more specifically, paragon exemplars and positive role models for the rich elite, who tried to imitate their styles. In line with Koptjevskaja-Tamm [2013: 273-275], we argue that the name modifiers have undergone a gradual process of TYPIFICATION and changed into categories due to the signature features initially attaching to the name bearers. While the associative meanings and positive attributes in the fields of Status, Wealth and Power are now long gone, what is left are associative meanings and features for specific styles and subkinds in the history of fashion.

63Interestingly enough, the ongoing discussion suggests that when the proper name stands for one or more characteristic attributes of the respective person, the proper name can be typified and denote a type or category. Also, in the course of the process it might lose its inherent connection to the presupposed referent. This is no surprise, as styles, markets and the fashion industry itself change over time, along with fashion icons and paragons. But, how can positive attributes attach to current fashion terms and product names that use names of paragon exemplars well-known to the prospective consumer? Illustrative examples here are (57), (58) and (31), repeated for convenience:

(57) Kelly bag [product name + product category], Kelly [product name with inherent category] >> Hermès Kelly [company name + product name]

(58) Birkin bag [product name + product category], Birkin [product name with inherent category] >> Hermès Birkin [company name + product name]

(31) Jakie (O’) bag [product name + product category], Jakie (O’) [product name with inherent category] >> Gucci Jakie (O’) [company name + product name]

64We can posit a commemorative function ‘N2 is named after Name1’. In names such as Hermès Kelly (57), Hermès Birkin (58) and Gucci Jakie (O’) (31), associative meanings arise from the producer for product metonymy, where Name1 is the producer, company and creator, and from the salient features characterizing Name2, the famed possessor and celebrity popularizing the bag. As a result, the product inherits the highly positive and desirable signature attributes of both brand and celebrity (a sort of brand ambassador). In a slightly different manner, Kelly bag (57), Birkin bag (58) and Jakie (O’) bag (31) can be interpreted as ‘Name1 has N2’. There is a celebrity for style metonymy in Kelly, Birkin and Jakie (O’), but we can also see a personification (i.e., a form of metaphor) in the combination of personal name and common noun, as the properties of the person are attributed to the bag.

65Importantly, the celebrity for style metonymy is based on the selection of a set of salient features of the name bearer (ultimately, on the possessor for possessed metonymy). Celebrity names serve as cognitive reference points and paragons for the cognitive process of domain-reduction. Thus, Kelly, Birkin and Jakie (O’) stand for the signature styles of the late Grace Kelly (59), Jane Birkin ((60)-(62)) and the late Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis (63), respectively:

(59) Kelly bag
: 1930s onwards.
Hermès, the French firm established in 1837, produced a classic handbag inspired by saddle bags in 1935. A smaller version of this achieved world-wide publicity in 1956 when Princess Grace of Monaco (1929-1982), formerly Grace Kelly, appeared holding one on the cover of Life magazine. After that this style was always known by her maiden name and came in a wide range of leathers and colours. […]. (
DFH2: Kelly bag)

(60) Birkin bag
Period: 1980s onwards.
The British singer/actress Jane Birkin (b. 1946) inspired this large leather bag created for her by Hermes in 1984. Highly practical due to its size and highly desirable due to the limited numbers made annually. It acquired worldwide fame through the American series
Sex and the City in the 1990s. Subsequently the naming of bags after performers and models became a useful publicity gimmick. […] (DFH2: Birkin bag)

(61) Hermes Birkin: […] go to Hermes and try their NON COVETED items. In other words, even if you do eventually want a Birkin/Kelly/Constance, with the first visit, avoid going in with the goal of getting a highly coveted bag. (Happy High Life [2020])

(62) BMX day and Birkin bags: Thursday’s best photos
The Guardian’s picture editors select photo highlights from around the world.
An employee displays Hermes bags prior to a sale at Bonhams auction house. The Colvert Porosus Crocodile Birkin bags are estimated at £24,000-£26,000. [Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP] (Lane [2022])

(63) The Jackie 1961 [Jackie (O’) bag, renamed Jackie 1961 when brought back by Tom Ford for Gucci]
Like the enduring allure of the woman it’s named after, The Jackie is a bag that will never go out of style. In 1961, Gucci introduced a Hobo-style bag that caught the eye of Jackie Kennedy, whose husband so famously loved Gucci’s loafer moccasins. It’s said that upon seeing a paparazzi image of Jackie Kennedy with the bag […], the Gucci family swiftly christened it the Jackie. (Ramzi [2021]).

66Grace Kelly embodies the glamour of the 1950s. Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis epitomizes the classic elegance of the 1960s, enduring allure and charm (FAS). Jane Birkin is the paragon of the casual and sometimes subversive beauty of the 1960s, and an enduring symbol of uniquely effortless and slightly vagabond mixture of bewitching style, French off-duty chic and relaxed English country style (Hughes [2020]).

67Based on cultural-encyclopaedic information from DFH2, it is easy to understand Kelly bag (57) as the institutionalized model analogue that gives rise to local analogy in Birkin bag (58). Sets of analogues coined since the 1990s (DFH2: Birkin bag) have triggered a repetitive pattern and brought about a gradual shift towards a schema (Booij [2010]) for naming bags, with Female Name as the modifier (Cacchiani [in press]). Broadly, this is at odds with older naming trends in the domain, e.g., calling bags after first date of appearance. Thus, Chanel’s 2.55 (26) first appeared in 1955 and was later renamed Chanel bag after Coco Chanel, its creator, and the epitome of based on a producer for product metonymy (64):

(64) 2.55 [later known as Chanel bag; FAS: Accessories, bags]
Chanel’s quilted shoulder bag with its leather and gilt chain was called 2.55 because it first appeared in February 1955. (
DFH2: Kelly bag)
Another option is naming bags after participants in the propositional frame, as in
Hermès Constance, Constance bag, or Constance in (65). Though worn and popularized by Jaqueline Kennedy, the bag is named after the creator’s daughter.

(65) Constance bag
The bag was first designed by Catherine Chaillet in 1959 and was given the name in honour of her fifth child, Constance, having delivered the baby the same day that the first Constance left the Hermes production store. With its leather shoulder strap allowing the bag to hang freely, it soon became the favourite of former First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy who popularised the Constance amongst Hollywood’s elite. (
Bags of Luxury [2022])

68To conclude, celebrity names here are suggestive of product’s quality and uniqueness. Exploiting the commemorative relationship helps cueing operations that eventually generate complex descriptions of highly desirable properties in the fields Status, Romanticism and Sensuality, Value, Wealth, Power and Independence (Cotticelli Kurras [2013]). Owning timeless classics like the/a Kelly bag ((57) and (59)), the/a Birkin bag ((59)-(62)) or the/a Gucci Jackie (O’) ((31) and (63)) is therefore perceived as likely to raise a woman’s perceived status, (self-)esteem and (self-)image based on cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge about the name bearer and luxury fashion brands. On the one hand, because the head is semantically enriched with features of the name modifier, it seems reasonable to suggest that the name acts as an EPITHET (Breban [2018]), and we do not need to posit subkinds within the category ‘designer handbag with considerable investment value’. On the other hand, however, fashion professionals and fashionistas alike might have specific subkinds (i.e., categories) for the three iconic bags, and over time the name might undergo typification (Koptjevskaja-Tamm [2013: 274]) within the community of practice. At this stage, we assume the construct is in the grey area between the two.


69The purpose of this paper was to investigate English terms and, more particularly, nominal constructs (Booij [2010]) with proper names or common nouns as modifiers, in the changing history of fashion and custom. Starting on the assumption that proper names and common nouns form prototypical categories with fuzzy boundaries (Van Langendonck [2007]; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]), we have provided a qualitative investigation of a representative selection of fashion terms, with an eye to commercial names. Interestingly, the analysis showed that multidenotativity, appellativization and proprialization are grounded in cognitive metonymy.

70Proper names may undergo appellativization and turn into common nouns, e.g., in simplexes like bikini, from a place name, and complex terms may alternate with reductions to the left (e.g., Ascot and Ascot tie). Proper names can be found as modifiers in complex terms. The original motivation and associative meanings arising from cultural-encyclopaedic knowledge of place names and personal names might have been lost over time (e.g., Alexandra Jacket, Albert boots), as a result of changes in trends, shapes, colors and styles, which are ultimately motivated by variation and changes in society. When name and name bearer are well-known, however, personal names can serve as paragon exemplars and cue strong inferences. The ability of certain constructs to convey associative meanings and complex descriptions, therefore, turns out to be a matter of extant cultural and encyclopaedic knowledge of brand and/or style icon. In this context, target-in-source metonymies and correlated operations of domain reduction (Pérez Hernández [2011]; Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez [2010]) are essential in generating associative meanings. In names of iconic products in the luxury fashion market, associations are clearly suggestive of highly desirable properties in the fields of Status, Romanticism and Sensuality, Value, Wealth, Power and Independence (Cotticelli Kurras [2013]), based on metonymies such as company for product for style, and celebrity for style. For instance, the names Hermès Kelly [company/brand name + celebrity name >> product name], or Kelly [celebrity name >> product name]. Kelly bag is a slightly different example: the commemorative semantic relation (Schlücker [2016]) links name modifier and common noun, bag is personified and inherits associative meanings from the signature attributes of the late Grace Kelly. Whereas [NN1-N2] compounds are clearly classifying, and brand names combine the identifying function with complex description, further research into specific language uses within the fashion community should help us clarify whether the modifier Kelly can be seen as an identifying Epithet (Breban [2018]), as being more typified (Koptjevskaja-Tamm [2013: 274]), or in the grey area between the two.

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1 Within the economy of this paper, no effort is made to distinguish between compounds and phrases, in that both can be accounted for within the approach that we take. See Lieber & Štekauer [2009], Bauer [2017] for attempts at drawing a line between compounds and phrases.

2 Given our data sources, we will not be dealing with deictic compounds (Downing [1977]).

3 Notice that Van Langendonck ([2007], Van Langendonck & Van de Velde [2016]) talks about trade and brand names. However, while ‘trade name’ is not normally used in commercial research, ‘brand name’ may cover several subtypes. In line with Sjöblom [2016: 453-456], we therefore choose commercial name as a cover term, and further distinguish for the following types:
- Company name, refering to a certain business and its activities: the referent is primarily abstract (a legal entity), but the name can be used for concrete commercial property as well. Also, the company can be personified (which is a metaphorical process), and the name owner overlap with the personal name of the founder (via metonymy).
Product name, which refers to the products or services being sold by the company. These can be otherwise protected registered trademarks.
Brand names, which can overlap with company names and names of products. Also, names of places, celebrities and events can be brands.

4 Because we are interested in common nouns and proper names as modifiers, we set aside the very many constructs with prepositions as modifiers. For instance, overall, overcoat; underwear, underskirt, and compounds that are elaborated in quasi-syntactic ways (off-the-shoulder (neckline)). See Biscetti & Baicchi [2019] for extensive discussion of fashion terms with prepositions as modifiers.

5 For a somewhat more intricate case in this set, let us take trench coat. Saying that N2 (coat) is intended to be worn in N1 (trenches) only appears to apply to the original meaning of trench coat ([OED: trench coat, n.1.] ‘A lined or padded waterproof coat worn by soldiers, originally in the trenches during the First World War (1914-18).’), though not to its most common current use ([OED trench coat, n.2.]; ‘A long loose coat, worn especially to keep off rain, typically double-breasted and with a belt and pockets in a style reminiscent of a military coat (see sense 1).’ On these grounds, CLASSIFY appears to be a more viable semantic relation for sense 2.

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Electronic reference

Silvia Cacchiani, From proper name to epithet: motivation and change in the fashion industryLexis [Online], 20 | 2022, Online since 28 December 2022, connection on 02 February 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Silvia Cacchiani

Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE), Italy

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