March 07, 2008


Dave Barry once suggested that  the Starbucks coffee-size name venti might mean, for all we know, "weasel snot" ("Latte Lingo: raising a pint at Starbucks", 11/30/2004).  In fact, of course, it's the Italian word for "twenty", referring to the spectacularly non-Italian denomination of twenty ounces. Stefano Taschini's reaction:

I believe there must have been a small mistype: technically, a warm liquid that you ingest in quantities exceeding half a liter is "stock" not "coffee".

I'm personally quite fond of American-style coffee infusions, and prefer them to the tiny intense Italian versions. But I've always found Starbuck's coffee-size names silly at best, and venti is the silliest and least attractive one. There's some indirect evidence that the rest of the English-speaking world agrees with me -- despite tens of millions of encounters with this word every day, no one has adopted venti as slang for "large".

Well, hardly anyone. From a weblog titled "Life in a Venti Cup":

Life is too short to think small. So live large. Live with style. Live with adventure. Live venti.

Web search turns up a few comments on various myspace pages:

i am venti and in charge... omg i love u!
I am not tall, I'm venti!
Marina told me about Venti Emily at your you're short, I'm tall, she's we need a Grande!

And apparently there's a religious podcast out there called "A Very Venti Christmas". But most of the extended uses that I found on the web are part of explicit arguments that venti is not an acceptable word for large, or part of various anti-Starbucks complaints:

"A very venti vent"
"It seems to me if you're going to charge a couple bucks for a cup of coffee the least you can do is give away wifi. That's not very venti of you"
"Venti means big. As in waistline. A Chocolate Brownie Frappucino has almost as many calories as a six-pack of beer".

This morning's Cathy illustrates the point, by pretending that its opposite is true:

But the harvest is remarkably slim. Overall, this might be the least successful large-scale naming effort in history, at least in terms of impact on general usage in relation to amount of exposure.

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 7, 2008 07:12 AM