Coffee's Dark Secrets: Linguistic Variation in Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts


  • Lilah Butler Boston College



This paper explores the linguistic implications of language in coffee shops, focusing on Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts stores located around Boston College. I interviewed baristas, recorded menus, tallied the greetings used by baristas, thereby focusing on coffee-related jargon as well as the language used towards entering customers. My research demonstrated a difference in practice in the two chains, with Starbucks utilizing a self-invented code of coffee-specific jargon, something Dunkin Donuts avoided. Dunkin Donuts baristas also showed a preference for simple, single-word greetings, whereas Starbucks tended towards questions regarding the customer’s specific order, shifting focus onto the drink itself. Baristas at Starbucks used elaborate, detailed phrases to describe their coffee; contrastingly, Dunkin Donuts employees politely but very briefly answered my questions. In conclusion, Starbucks-lexicon markets itself as differentiated from the majority of coffee shops, whereas Dunkin Donuts seeks a solidarity-based approach, implying a different audience. Future research could compare other chains of coffee shops, determining whether Starbucks is alone in its brand-specific lexicon or if other coffee shops have adopted its use as well.

Author Biography

Lilah Butler, Boston College

Undergraduate, Boston College



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How to Cite

Butler, L. (2018). Coffee’s Dark Secrets: Linguistic Variation in Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Lingua Frankly, 4.