It's in the dictionary so you might ask how somebody can license its use. Somebody can if the other half of "Ritz" happens to be "Carlton," synonymous with a class operation and presumably worth lots of bucks.

Starting today, when he officially changes the name of the Fairfax Hotel to the Washington Ritz-Carlton, owner John B. Coleman will begin paying a percentage of annual hotel sales to Gerald Blakeley, owner of the Boston Ritz-Carlton. Blakeley owns the North American rights to the name.

It's Coleman's second hotel licensed to use the name. The other, formerly the Navarro on New York's Central Park South, opened earlier this year.

Blakeley's standards, patterned after those set down by Cesar Ritz when he opened the Paris Ritz in 1898, require among other things personalized service, a one-to-one ratio of staff and guests, a home-like ambiance and a good location. He has only licensed one other hotel to use the name and that's in Chicago.

"Mr. Blakeley has been very judicious in licensing the name," a spokesperson said yesterday.

What Blakeley giveth, however, Blakeley can also taketh away.

"He will monitor the hotels closely to see if they meet his standards," said the spokesperson.