Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have previously mentioned how much I detest the food and coffee at Starbucks. And how much time I spend there anyway, since it's right next to my gym/work and now boasts the "free" (that's negotiable) Wi-Fi for my netbook.

So, on Friday I sauntered into SBs after Nia, only to interrupt three baristas--two female, one possibly male--arguing about pronunciation. One of them I know, meaning she has been cheerfully making me bad coffee drinks for years now, and often asks what's up with Justin Timberlake (who is not a friend of mine, surprisingly, but can be found between the pages of my erudite Friday afternoon reading.) She's a saucy thing, and I rather like her. Her friend seemed a bit more serious in nature. The Possible Male mostly kept his own counsel.

Sam: Hi. Can I get...

Saucy Barista: Hi! it ver-sa-tul?

Sam: What?

Saucy: Ver-sa-tul? Or ver-sa-TILE?

I hesitated.

Serious Barista: She doesn't know. It's okay.

Sam: No, no. I'm just thinking. I'm thinking that it's probably both.

Saucy: Both? Really?

Sam: Yes...

I hesitated some more.

Saucy: It's okay. There's no reason why you should know that.

Okay, and here comes the part where I hate myself. I can't resist flashing my credentials for the ONE THING IN LIFE I have credentials FOR, and that is the English language. It's all I've got--I have to milk it. It's just who I am. Love me anyway.

Sam: No, there is a reason why I should know that. I teach English. At least, I have.

Serious: How cool! What grade?

I hesitated again.

Saucy: You idiot! Why are you asking her what grade?

Serious Barista looked sad and dissed. I wanted to make it all better.

Sam: No, no, it's a good question. A very good question. But actually I taught college.

The conversation veered away, and my order got lost in the shuffle. That's okay. I was really there for the Wi-Fi. I pointed at my Netbook (damn, it's cute) and said:

Sam: I'm going to find out the answer. Right now. In here.

They all looked like they didn't believe me, so I had to prove them wrong. After I'd hacked my way through the various firewalls and security codes SBs has in place, I pulled up and "versatile." And there it was, just as I'd suspected.


I returned to the counter, and they looked at me expectantly, but I don't think because of versatile. I'm pretty sure that, like goldfish, they had forgotten all about versatile after 14 seconds. But I was not going to.

Sam: It's both. Ver-sa-tul is preferred.

Saucy: I told you! Preferred! What about agile? A-jul? Or a-JILE?

I hesitated again. Then I sighed, like a poser idiot.

Sam: I'm pretty sure it's both again. I'll look it up.

I did. It was both. Now I wondered if I was going to stay here all night, looking up words for them, like an idiot.

Saucy: I've also always wondered if it's tapen-ODD or tapen-AID.

That one threw me. Why would she wonder that? Somebody stop me...

Sam: Well, that's not English. It's French. So I think it has to be tapen-ODD. (And because I'm obnoxious AND insecure, I looked it up. At least I was right.)

Serious: I wonder why so many words can be pronounced more than one way?

I hesitated. I have no idea, of course. I'm sure I pronounce things wrong all the time. But I do get off on looking things up, so eventually I find out.

Possible Male: I think it's just the way words are. You know, like you can say Target or Tar-JHAY.

Now we were all speechless. Finally, because I'm obnoxious, I broke the silence, in the MOST OBNOXIOUS WAY POSSIBLE.

Sam: Well, I don't think that's the same. Because, you know, I don't think Tar-JHAY is in the dictionary. (It probably is.)

So, tonight I subbed a class for a friend, and as I dashed from the car, juggling my stuff, I passed by Saucy Barista, having a smoke on her break. She smiled and waved. I raised my hand and waved back.

And froze as I did so, realizing that what I was waving was my STARBUCKS INSULATED MUG, which didn't even have coffee in it (just water) and I didn't even buy (it was a pre-China gift from Mary) and I never, ever, EVER even use.

Just today. So I could wave it at Saucy Barista like a freakin' walking infomercial. For something I don't even like. And feel even more like an idiot.


Myrnie said...

Ah, don't feel bad. I bet she doesn't like the drinks either! (I've heard it's a GREAT place to work, though.)

Calvin said...

Aw Sam, you know you could have just asked me. I would've corrected them (if you could hear me).

Sam said...

@Myrnie: Oh, you're probably right! :)

@Calvin: Right--I should have remembered that. ;)

Aunt LoLo said...

Hehehe...if Saucy is as much of a goldfish as you say...then you've got nothing to worry about. ;-)

erin said...

Kids these days. They're talking about correct pronunciation? I think all we talked about at 'work' (I worked at a teen center coffee bar and then later at one near my college campus) were parties, prof. we hated (haha) and boys. The other topic of conversation was how much younger I was than everyone else. They were totally 21 and I was totally just 17! (I went to college a year early)

Sam said...

@Lolo: LOL! :)

@Erin: Seriously. All we talked about at my coffee job was sex, drugs and rock n' roll. I was 16, though. :)

Stephanie said...

I don't get where you were obnoxious...also, that was a pretty demure flash of credentials if ever I heard one!

Sam said...

@Steph: Yeah, I should just be you-know-what and OWN IT. ;)

The Wades said...

You're speaking to me again. I'm not even good and I love to argue all things English. It's a thrill. I was even excited when I read the first question they asked you. Lamely, I was living vicariously through you. Good times.

One time I had an argument with some friends who grew up in New Mexico (farther north than ABQ.) The always said, "We JUAN the game." The pronounced won like Juan, and not one. I explained to them that their hispanic accent was shining through. I even looked it up in the dictionary--my friend informed me that the dictionary is often wrong and that it just doesn't sound right like one. The argument didn't get settled until we called his parents (who grew up back East) and they pronounced it correctly. Man, it feels good to be right. :)

Sadly, I just figured out I have been incorrectly pronouncing larynx all these years. :( That hurts. It really hurts.