Lexie Tells How Starbucks Got Its Name

A tall, broad-shouldered man let a blast of hot dry Santa Ana wind stir the conditioned air as he paused in the doorway. His well-worn jeans fit him like the skin on a grape. He strode in, past the texting teens and the chattering women with the unnaturally smooth faces, straight into my office – a table in the back where it’s dark and the Wi-Fi is strong as a double shot.

“You Ms. Kahn?” he asked.

“Who wants to know?”

“I’m called De Sica.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. De Sica?”

“Not Mister. Just De Sica. I need information.”

“What kind of information?”

“Etymological.”

I slid a stiletto heel off the chair in front of me, kicking the Times Business section off the seat and tucking it into my briefcase. I’m a big fan of newspapers.

I nodded to De Sica to have a seat.

“Say, how did this java joint get its name? Is it the astronomical prices?”

“Hmm,” I said. “Astronomy…study of stars, plus colloquial term for dollars…Good guess, but no.

“Mr. Starbuck was the First Mate of the Pequod in Moby-Dick.” My Gunmetal Gray thumbnails clicked against my phone as I searched.

Strangely, the only passage in the book connecting the character with coffee occurs in Chapter 81 in which the crew argues over whether a German sailor is waving a coffeepot or a lamp feeder. In Chapter 26, though, Melville introduces the character like this: ‘He was a long, earnest man, and though born on an icy coast, seemed well adapted to endure hot latitudes, his flesh being hard as twice-baked biscuit.’ Hardtack or biscotti? You decide.” I turned the screen toward him.

“But that’s not your real question; is it?”

[To be continued.]

Photo by J.B. Herman

About WordSnooper.com

Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at WordSnooper.com.
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