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Baristo, Barista, Baristi PDF Print E-mail
Written by Eric S. Chen   
Thursday, 15 June 2006
shifltess_serving1.thumbnailThe SHIFTLESS BARISTO on fake Italian

The espresso-bar industry seems to have settled on the term "barista" for the profession, that is, those of us who brew the coffee, pull the espresso shots, and artfully create our signature espresso drinks. Copyright 2006 Eric S. Chen for

The term "barista" is a gender stereotype, or at least it sounds like one. I don't like it. Neither should you.

I don't infer that this is an intentional choice. The usage for barista stems from the trend apparently started by  StarbucksTM to use Italian or pseudo-Italian vocabulary to lend an aura of sophistication to the product. Now, I agree that good espresso and those who pull the shots deserve respect and dignity. But sophistication is not aided by faulty grammar.

Italian-language purists are apt to protest, accurately, that "barista" refers to both male and female bartenders in Italian. That's correct, as far as it goes. However, in Italian, the word as used is still gender specific - la barista if a woman and il barista if a man. A group of bartenders are bariste if all female, and baristi if all male or a mixed group.

Our industry lets customers think that barista is Italian, and then pluralizes it "baristas."  How sophisticated is that?

The MSN/Encarta dictionary states that the word barista (one r) has an origin of "late 20th century (Italian root)." This word is recently made up. I searched multiple online dictionaries for either "baristo" or barista". Wikipedia has what seems to be the most complete and current definition. Merriam-Webster added barista only in its 11th edition (July 2003). I was certain that the first time I checked Merriam-Webster online, they spelled it "barrista" (2 rs); however when I double checked my references for this article, they used the one-r variety. Unless I was mistaken, even the spelling of the word may still be in flux. Urban Dictionary does list the two-rs variant, though without a definition, but this means little as anyone can post a new word without editorial review. (I posted baristo and baristi, naturally.) Several other dictionaries that I checked did not include either variant.

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