Saturday, August 12, 2006

Smug self satisfaction

A long long time ago
I can still remember

I embarrassed myself in company by miss pronouncing a word. Peoples laughed at me, deservedly so probably. I was humiliated.

Now, I try to keep my mouth shut until I know I am correct.

R is more of a people person than I. But he does not appreciate how much useless information is stored in my head.

I remember at a trivia night, the question was, 'what is the tourist bureau in the Soviet Union called?." Notice I am going back a few years. I answered Intourist. Later he asked me how I knew that. Well, in the eighties, I used to read The Age travel section religiously, along with all the other bits. I think I replied, dunno, just know it.

Tonight he asked me about a word his boss had mentioned to him, barista. I knew what he meant but he pronounced it like barrister. He took his lead from his boss in the pronouniation.

He very kindly suggested that what I said was not how his boss said it.

Panic, have I got it wrong? I have seen the written word often enough, but have I heard it said? I am not sure. I know a little of Italian pronounciation, but perhaps not enough. God, is my mental image of this word totally wrong?

Google, wikipedia, oxford online, ask Jeeves, no answer.

But if my life is shallow, I do know useful people. Given the time difference, I got a pretty quick response from our friend in Japan, who is Australian, but has a pretty good knowlege of Italian, as she lived there for a while, and liked Italy quite a lot.

The word is barista, not barrister. BaRISta.

I was quietly confident. I just needed some confirmation.

The net searching was interesting though. I learnt that it is a term that the coffee chain Starbucks use. I reckon that that is how the word arrived in Australia. And, it actually means bartender, although in Oz, it seems to be the coffee maker in a decent eating place.

As an aside, most of my favourite local baristas (oh god, what is the plural?) are of Asian heritage.

So now, how can R humiliate his smart ass boss with the correct pronounciation?


  1. I have this problem with science terms and I'm always listening to get them right. Makes me look a bit dumb at times but rather that than make a complete idiot of myself.

    Tell R the best way is to watch someone else correct the boss and avoid the sacking.

  2. Yeah, I first heard Barista back in the day when I thought it would be fun to "slum it" and work as one at Starbucks. Thankfully, was offered a different job before Starbucks could get to me.

    Of course, back home there is a Starbucks on every street corner. Even on opposite corners of the same street, just so you don't have to cross the road incase you get a hankering for a low-fat soy mint frappocino.

    I find it incredibly charming that you can get a latte almost anywhere around Melb. Even the small Indian take-away place near me has one.

    But...(and I know I'll get flack for this) I miss having a starbucks close by.


  3. Correct Jess. Consider yourself flacked.

  4. I think Barista is a bit of a wank word, so don't worry about pronouncing it correctly. It's coffee. BTW, speaking of Starbucks, ANOTHER one is opening near Legacy House on Swanston St (between Lonsdale and La Trobe). I don't get to see much else of the city, but I'm assuming the cancerous spread is not restricted to Swanston (Bourke, City Square).

  5. Wank word? Well it is not a word I could comfortably fit into coversation.