Java Jive

That’s the title of an entertaining op-chart by Ben Schott in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times yesterday. The framing text:

By now, we’re all fluent in the language of corporate coffee – from Dunkaccinos® to Caffè Vanilla Frappuccinos®. But across America, independent coffee bars have developed private vocabularies to describe the intricate beverages they brew and the idiosyncrasies of those who order them.

The chart gives a wide selection of these two types of vocabularies.

Two points. One, that a great deal of slang is extraordinarily local, a fact that means that a complete, comprehensive slang dictionary is an impossibility. Two, that the instinct for language play is strong; given any opening, people will engage in all sorts of playful language (clippings, portmanteaus, rhyming and alliteration, puns, colorful metaphors, allusions, and so on).

There are a few recurring items in the chart, notably the clipping spro or ‘spro for espresso, sometimes combined with other elements, as in simulspro ‘two shots brewing at the same time’ (Cognoscenti Coffee, Los Angeles and Culver City); bro ‘spro ‘espresso in a demitasse, no spoon, plate, or sparkling water’ (Dogwood Coffee Co., Minneapolis); and ‘spro-mance ‘to be falling in love with (or especially fond of) a particular type of espresso’ (Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., Olympia WA).

Some drinks: cheeseburger, cheeseburger ‘a series of drinks made with a standard espresso’, after the Saturday Night Live sketch starring John Belushi and set in a diner that serves little but cheeseburgers (Sterling Coffee Roasters, Portland OR); the Devito ‘a 3.5-ounce Americano that is small, stout, and strong’, like actor Danny Devito (Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco and Oakland, and New York City); jitter juice ‘Toddy method cold brew’ (Gimme! Coffee, New York City and Finger Lakes NY); mama-jama ’20-ounce drink’ (Holy Spirit Espresso, Santa Fe NM).

Some customers: stranger danger ‘new customers who want 22-ounce cups and ask lots of time-consuming questions’ (Espresso Vivace, Seattle); crushtomer ‘a customer a staff member has a crush on’ (Joe, New York City and Philadelphia); sweaty Susan ‘an impatient customer’ (Trabant Coffee & Chai, Seattle); phonies ‘customers who order while on their cellphones’ (Birch Coffee, New York City).


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