July 15, 2018
I asked the woman for a small cup of dark roast coffee in a mug for here.
She rang up my order. I paid. She turned to fill the order and then turned back to me and asked, "Small? Right?"
I was astounded.
She must be new.
I was co-working with friends at a Starbucks. Usually the person waiting on me corrects my order to "Tall". That's their term for small.
It's so pervasive that other coffee shops either explicitly offer their coffee in Tall, Grande, and Venti or they silently translate when a customer asks for a Grande into whatever size they consider a medium.
Repeating words over and over cause them to seep into our language.
I understand companies not wanting to sell a small size. I worked at Burger Chef when I was 14 and we had regular, large, and extra-large fries.
Isn't that small, medium, and large?
Sure, but we don't sell small anything. We sell regular, large, and extra-large.
Tall, Grande, and Venti have a clear origin. They were introduced into coffee-buying by Starbucks.
I do hate those terms and don't use them, but the phrase I hate even more is, "what can I get started for you today?"
Starbucks employees starting using it as a greeting when you approach the register.
I don't know what it means.
Perhaps it's to imply they are the first cog in the machine that is fulfilling an order.
But that's not why I hate the phrase the most.
I hate it because now all of my neighborhood coffee shops use it and they don't seem to know why.
When I ask them they tell me they always said it.
I've gone there for years.
They only started doing it after Starbucks did.
That's what bothers me the most about the phrase - it doesn't mean anything and people are beginning to use it without realizing where it comes from.
Oh what's the big deal, you say.
I don't know. My neighborhood coffee person could say:
"What can I get you?"
"What would you like?"
"Can I help you."
They can say any of a hundred things they used to say. But now they all say, "What can I get started for you today?"
It's small, but as memes enter our language and take over the way we talk to each other, I think it's more important that we pay attention to them.
These small changes impact (oh my goodness, "impact" as a verb, how did that happen?) the way we order coffee, vote, and live our lives.
I know it's a tall thing. But words matter.