Why English is Hard, or, “How to Speak Starbucks-ese” in the Mornings

What are blogs for if not for their authors to share true confessions?

And if that were not the case,

and voyeurism were completely dead,

AND those crafting the entries among said blogs only did so for improving and sharing their holy discipline of writing…

well…then I’d be out of here.

But I’m here, and ready today to deliver a rare true confession: I am a food snob.

Here’s another: I actually like Starbucks most days.

AND YET… another: I make fun of food snobs and those who like Starbucks.

In other words, I laugh at that with which I deeply identify. Take this scene for example. The first time I saw it I felt as though someone had secretly invaded my soul and written the secrets they stole into a script for this particular segment:

As I watched that snippet alongside my c. 1989 hubby, I longed for the world to stop so I could run up, kiss the screen and scream, “THANK YOU. Thank you SO much, Sally, for articulating the choices in my head about the food I eat!” I felt empowered, validated…and, I was prepared to access my new-found confidence.

The very next day, when I ordered my salad dressing “On the Side” rather than digging it out of my bowl or sopping it up with a napkin, I smiled. And then I prayed a second time for the food I was about to receive.

Another true confession: I have been a very particular orderer ever since. Which leads me to my main topic: When I go to Starbucks in the morning and order a breakfast sandwich, it goes something like this between the cashier and I…

“I would like a Bacon Gouda Sandwich toasted open-faced please.”

[I painstakingly make sure the waiter is making eye contact with me while I do this so they can also see that I am holding my hands in front of me, praying style, then opening them as I say the words “open faced” so they understand that I do indeed mean when I said.]

“Okay, that’s a Bacon Gouda…anything else?”

“Open faced, right?”

“Yeah, right. [ pause ] You mean, you don’t want the bun on top?”

“No, I DO want the bun on top, but I want the sandwich TOASTED open [again, the hand gesture] so that the bacon will crisp up nicely. Then, when it’s finished, just put the top back on. So…TOASTED open-faced, but not served open faced.”

“[blink] Okay, anything else?”

“Yes. Every day I come in I generally order a venti low-fat iced latte. But TODAY, I want a grande one-pump, skinny pumpkin spice latte.”

“Um, we don’t have the pumpkin spice syrup in sugar-free.”

“I don’t WANT sugar-free pumpkin spice syrup, I want regular syrup but just one-pump.”


“Perhaps I’m not ordering this correctly. Could you please explain to me the ‘Starbucks-ese’ way to order the drink I described: a grande, skim-milk latte, with one pump of pumpkin spice syrup? I want to get this right so that I’ll communicate my order correctly next time.”

“Um…that would be a grande one-pump pumpkin spice latte, low fat, no whip.”

“Why do you have to distinguish the ‘no whip?’ That’s like un-ordering something that doesn’t normally come with the drink anyway. Right?”

“[blink, pause, very slow grin begins to crack across face of waiter] Well, MOST people who come in and order hot drink lattes in the winter either specify whip or no whip. I’m not sure why.”

“[blink] Well, okay. I’ve got it now. I’ll practice today while I drive to work.”


Do you see the trouble here? I’m a food snob, who likes Starbucks enough to try and use their language to order my very specific meal and drink and…oh, never mind. Just watch this scene from L.A. Story. And just know that I KNOW it’s ridiculous.

And that, my friends, is why English is hard and why practicing Starbucks-ese in the morning will pay off for me next Monday morning.

True confession: I may change my order to “WITH whip.”



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