Speaking of Coffee…

I was thinking about this the other day. Actually I think about all the time. Why the heck does Starbucks call small, medium, and large coffees, “Tall”, “Grande”, and “Venti”? I just found the article today, but Dave Barry addressed the issue in a 2004 column (found via this article at Language Log):

We begin today with a disturbing escalation in the trend of coffee retailers giving stupid names to cup sizes. As you know, this trend began several years ago when Starbucks (motto: ”There’s one opening right now in your basement”) decided to call its cup sizes ”Tall” (meaning ”not tall,” or ”small”), ”Grande” (meaning ”medium”) and ”Venti” (meaning, for all we know, ”weasel snot”). Unfortunately, we consumers, like moron sheep, started actually USING these names. Why? If Starbucks decided to call its toilets ”AquaSwooshies,” would we go along with THAT? Yes! Baaa!

I am not certain yet if coffee retailers other than Starbucks or Starbucks-affiliated chains (Dave Barry’s article erroneously says that Seattle’s Best is a competitor to Starbucks, when in fact it is owned by Starbucks). I know Caribou Coffee uses normal words to describe the cups.

For the record, I have always refused to use these made-up words when ordering coffee. It probably has some marketing value, but it feels like deliberate confusion. When I ask for a medium dark roast, they ask me “Grande?” and I play dumb by staring blankly for a minute, looking confusedly at the board, then pointing to the stack of medium cups and saying “one of those!” I’m just one person, but together, we can fix this problem in our society.