… and if it seems expensive to well-paid television personality, O’Brian, imagine what it seems to poor poets and writers.
I stopped with a friend at a Starbuck’s for a quick fix the other day. She is elderly and normally goes to her little neighborhood café – a cozy one-shop family-owned affair – to write. She’s not familiar with the big commercial chains, so it’s not surprising that her conversation with the young barista went something like this:
Friend: “I’ll have a small coffee.”
Barista: “You’ll have a tall coffee.”
Friend: “No. I just want a small coffee.”
Barista: “Oh, yes. A tall coffee is a small coffee.”
Friend: looking a bit cross-eyed, “Ah, okay.”
Barista: “Miss, will that be a decaf.” (It was almost four in the afternoon.)
Friend: “No thank you! I just want a small black coffee.”
Barista: “Okay, a tall regular coffee, no room.”
Wow! I think it took me less time and effort to negotiate the payment on my first house and my friend’s order didn’t even get into the challenges of flavored coffee drinks: “I’ll have a small – no make that a tall – decaf mocha with whipped cream – make that a nonfat, decaf mocha with whipped cream – no hold the whipped cream … do you have soy? – I’ll have a soy decaf mocha with whipped cream. Small. No! I mean tall. Make it iced. Oh, wait a minute. Is your soy gluten-free? I better not take a chance. I’ll have a tall, iced nonfat mocha without whipped cream.Thanks! How much? An arm and a leg! Okay, and here’s my right eye for a tip. Good job! Thank you.” It’s all a bit of a jolt: java jive talk included.
When I finished writing this, I was suddenly compelled to look up the American expression “coppa joe,” which I associate with World War II. Here’s what Wikipedia says of it’s uncertain origin:
- Possibly a shortening of “cup of jamoke“, from Java + Mocha: this origin was given in a military officer’s manual from 1931, around when the term first appeared.
- Alternatively, perhaps a use of joe (“fellow, guy”), signifying that coffee was the drink of the common man.
- Another theory suggests that US soldiers in World War I (1914-1918) referred to a serving of instant coffee made by the G. Washington Coffee Refining Company(founded in 1910) as a “cup of George”, and that the common abbreviation of the name “George” (“Geo.”) was then read as “Joe”.
- Another theory derives the term from Josephus Daniels (1862-1948), the Secretary of the U.S. Navy who abolished the officers’ wine mess and thus made coffee the strongest drink available on ships. Snopes considers this is unlikely because it says there is no attestation of the phrase “cup of joe” until 1930, 16 years after the 1914 order banning the wine mess.Confusingly, some other sources consider the Daniels derivation unlikely for the opposite reason: they say “cup of joe” predates the order.
© 2015, words, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph courtesy of George Hodan, Public Domain Pictures.net