English Professor Kicked out of Starbucks for Refusing to Use Starbucks' Jargon

Lynn Rosenthal, a college professor of English, is a stickler for correct grammar. She doesn't approve of Starbucks' word usage, and after an argument with a barista, she was forcibly removed from a Starbucks location in New York City:

"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told The Post. "I refused to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want.

"Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."

Rosenthal admitted she had run into trouble before for refusing to employ the chain's stilted lexicon -- balking at ordering a "tall" or a "venti" from the menu or specifying "no whip."

Instead, she insists on making a pest of herself by ordering a "small" or "large" cup of joe.

Link via Geekosystem | Photo by Flickr user tristanf used under Creative Commons license

Yeah, Starbucks's lingo is a pain, and I can understand not wanting to use it. But do you have to be such an ass about it?

I believe in standing up for your principles. But is "the way I order something from a fast food joint" really a principle worth embarrassing yourself over?

Just do what I do: don't go to Starbucks.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)

I refuse to use Starbucks jargon too. There's one Starbucks in Chicago that doesn't use their jargon. I asked for a medium and they'll repeat it back to me as a medium. For that, they have a loyal customer
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I the northwest at least, they don't care if you ask for a "medium", and they always ask you if you want cream cheese with your bagel - it's not improper English, it's a yes or no question and standard service. I hope she doesn't get mad at wait staff in a fancy restaurant when they ask if she would like a salad with her entree.

The part I love is the witness account that she started calling the barista names:

"She called [the barista] an a- -hole."

Now that's using proper English!

First key thing I was taught in high school English - You learn proper English so that later in life you can more effectively misuse it.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I've only been to Starbucks while traveling, but in quite a few cities I've ordered their coffee in, I've never had a barista insist on using their jargon. If I order a small coffee, they just give it to me. Either I have "tourist" written on my face, or most people who work there are flexible and accommodating.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
According to the article, she wasn't ejected for not using the correct jargon. She was ejected for being a loud, argumentative jerk and being verbally abusive. It's a little frustrating that there is such a difference between the summary of the article here, and the article itself. C'mon, guys...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I think she was just being a dork. English is not a fixed language, nor is any other, for that matter. There's no such thing as "correct" language because anyone is free to make up words and lingo and if you don't like it don't talk to them.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I was all hyped to jump in on the prof's side, but this has nothing to do with grammar or Starbucks jargon. It has to do with taking the order correctly, and likely with upselling the order ('do you want fries with that?').

If you don't want to be upsold, don't patronize corporate fast-food chains.

I hope she wasn't ordering coffee too. It sounds as if she had too much already.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
She is full of it. Starbucks policy is not to hassle people about the stupid names for things. I have never ordered a "tall" or "vente" coffee - I always ask for large or medium - never hassled or corrected once. Why does whether you want butter or cheese matter so much to this clown? If you go to Joe's Diner and order a cuppa joe, and Balnche the waitress says "cream or sugar?" would you make a big speech about not having to specify what you DIDN'T want? If so, Blanche and Joe would likely bounce you on the sidewalk, and you would deserve it.

In any case, she shares my Jerk of the Week award with the JetBlue clown.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't get why people are so snarky about using Starbucks' terminology. I mean, you don't go into McDonalds and order a small medium or large hamburger, you ask for either a hamburger, Quarter Pounder or a Big Mac. No one seems to find anything wrong with this. So at Starbucks, your medium sized coffee is a venti - why does that raise so much ire?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I've never used STarbuck terminology. I always say "largest" and never ordered flavored stuff or whip cream or other sugary stuff so I've never been told to order a different way.

Mainly because I don't know how to pronounce venti.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Gotta say I've been using standard English when determining the size of coffee I want for years now. No repercussions so far. Just from the brief of this article, I imagine that the prof simply refused to specify if she wanted it without the toppings just to be difficult. One thing to insist on speaking non-jargon English; another to just be difficult about it.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It's "improper english" to tell the people behind the counter that you don't want butter or cheese on your bagel? Is she retarded or just a rude a-hole?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I hate the cutesy Starbucks jargon, and when ordering have generally refused to use it, but not while harassing the underpaid staff. I've worked in coffee shops, and dealing with the public isn't easy. This prof indeed deserves to be bounced on the sidewalk (great image).
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I used their terms when ordering coffee because I want the transaction to go as quickly as possible and I don't really give a sh*t if they're using improper english. This is not a crusade I find particularly important, I guess.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
While places coming up with weird names for otherwise normal things is a bit annoying, she should complain to someone who is in charge of that sort of thing and has the power to change it, not the folks taking the orders and serving the coffee and bagels. They didn't name it "Venti". They didn't choose for cream cheese or whipped topping to be the default serving style. They don't have the authority to re-name it something sensible or change the standard recipe to be to your taste. If she was really that concerned with that stuff, she should have worked her way up the chain of command until she was in contact with someone who could actually do something about it or at least make meaningful note of her concerns. By being difficult to the server, she was just making their day less pleasant for no reason.

Plus, didn't her mother teach her the old "You get more flies with sugar than you do with salt." theory. If you're really super nice, you'll get a LOT better results than when you're not fun to deal with.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I also refuse to use Starbucks slang. But I go about it in a much different manner. I refuse to patronize the place.
Go to an actual local cafe and order a regular coffee.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
What kills me is that a small is a "tall", a medium is a "grande" (which means large or great in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. Venti, which is a large, means twenty in Italian.

Venti? Come on Starbucks. Stop sucking. Use small, medium and large like the rest of the world.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
If a clerk asks you for something you don't want, why not simply say "No thank you."?

The clerks don't want to have to ask you this stuff, but they are required to do it, so why unload on them? Just say "No thank you." in a pleasant voice and move on with your life.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It doesn't read to me that she was complaining about saying "Venti" "Tall" or "Grande." She's quoted as saying "I refused to say ‘without butter or cheese.'" If she refused to say that, then the cashier would have said something like "Would you like butter or cheese with that?" And all she'd have to say is "No thank you." So basically that's what she's complaining about.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I would imagine the reason that Starbucks uses Tall, Grande and Venti is because their coffee is very epensive. They probably don't want people saying "I just paid several dollars for a small cup of coffee".
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
This is epic fail. This so called English professor is ignorant of the fact that English as a language is constantly changing and evolving. Pop culture influences like Starbucks have a part tp play in that change. Obviously the professor has become set in her ways and therefore would not be a very interesting teacher. This is the kind of behaviour I expect from internet trolls not college preofessors.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Starbucks jargon is annoying, but the lady has issues I think. What's the problem with saying; "I would like a plain bagel with nothing on it"?

She sounds like an angry snob.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I lived in Seattle through the 90's and I remember first moving there. Starbucks was common but not nearly as ubiquitous it is now. Grande was, at first, nonexistent. There was just "short" and "tall". You can still get a short sized drink if you ask for it.

It seemed to me that the terms "tall" and "short" were local shorthand for the available sizes regardless of whether the espresso shop (or shack) was Starbucks or any number of other coffee startups.

I'd been to many bars across the region where I could order a "tall one" or a "short one" and receive the sized beer that I wanted. Nothing to do with Starbucks there.

So it seems to me that as Starbucks expanded out of the Northwest U.S., "short" and "tall" made them distinctive. Grande and ultimately venti continued that distinction.

Lastly, lattes in Boston stink. I miss you Diva Espresso in Greenwood!

Waiting for my lesson in proper usage of quotations,

Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I rarely go to Starbucks, but at Chipotle three people in a row asked me if my order was to go or eat in. I answered each of them clearly. Then they ignored my request to eat-in.
At Taco Belle they always say "Can I take your order" and after a couple of words they always interrupt me to ask if it is to go or eat in. One of the workers told me they are trained to do it that way.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I suppose she always uses the words "authentic" or "genuine" in place of "bona fide" as well. Surely she knows that words from other languages are often adopted by English speakers, and using said words isn't "incorrect English."

I plan on not being such a pompous ass when I become a professor of English/literature.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
As a Starbucks barista I have issue with not only the stuffy prof, but with the barista.

Starbucks policy is basically "Just say yes," meaning, whatever the customer wants, we'll do it for them. If she just wanted a plain bagel, then she should have been given the standard, which is with cream cheese. The barista should not have egged the customer on.

English professor aside, why be such a nasty human being?! Life doesn't revolve around you, so suck it up like the rest of humanity and compromise. It's a few words in exchange for coffee and a bite to eat.

To clarify, "venti" does mean twenty in some languages; a "venti" sized drink is 20oz. (Iced Venti drinks are 24oz, so rather than saying "ventiquattro," it is kept "venti")

And as much as I love working for Starbucks, I'd say go to a different coffee shop if you've had repeated problems with the jargon!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
ZOMG!! You mean a professor hasn't figured out how to make coffee at home? Or that you can get it much cheaper and without attitude or questions at a gas station or convenience store. ??
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Coffee is extremely cheap to import and extremely easy to brew. Why people keep falling for the fake$$ inflation, thinking it somehow equals better quality, is beyond me.
Stop being so gullible for starbucks, people! I wish I could reach inside your brains and unscramble the stupid.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Yeah this is all about respecting other people (not to sound like an idiot) the customer should be polite to the staff and vica versa - I used to work in retail and a bit of politeness made your day so much easier, especially when you had stock phrases to repeat 1000000 times a day! If you have to go to a big chain just try to be nice to the poor unfortunate staff members; store policy is hardly their fault!

Anyway, here in Ireland people are pretty forgiving about lingo, for instance, we say "chips" instead of fries and even McDs don't get annoyed when we ask for a small chips with our burger ^_^ Starbucks are only just making inroads here in the last 5 years or so and I've heard people saying small/medium/large and tall/grande/venti and being served just the same.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Why anyone would want to go to Starbucks for a foul coffee in a smelly cardbord tube is beyond me. I tried it twice - coincidentally in New York. I only went back the second time because I could not believe how vile it was the first time. It was the same swill. If they need a lesson in English they should get one.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It isn't a matter of not using Starbucks jargon... The bagels come with butter or cheese, and the woman refused to say what she wanted (or in this case did not want) on her bagel.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It tastes that bad because they burn the beans in order to have a consistent flavour. People take comfort in that which is similar and habit forming, so as long as it's exact, it will stay popular even if it tastes like ass.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
used to work in a coffee joint, i remember someone ordered a 'macchiato', and my snarky coworker gave them one - that is, straight espresso poured through milk foam. girl was *not* happy.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
If you don't say you want it plain, what's your server to do? This has nothing to do with grammar and everything to do with she's a B-I-T-C-H.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I've always assumed that it was because I live in central Kentucky that my local Starbucks doesn't care when I say "medium." I'm glad to know it's a common thing. My favorite though is to rattle off a long drink around here. If I order a "single grande, 5-pump rasberry, 2-pump chai, organic, no water chai," I will get a different drink every time.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't know what Burger King she frequents, but when I order a Whopper at any BK in my neighborhood I get everything on it unless I specify that I don't want tomatoes or onions or whatever.

And I wouldn't take a class from a professor that believes that being clear and precise is improper use of English.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 54 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"English Professor Kicked out of Starbucks for Refusing to Use Starbucks' Jargon"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More