I was at my neighborhood Starbucks meeting for the first time a fellow academic from my local church to explore possibilities of forming a “small group”, “book club”, or whatever they are called these days on topics I raise in this blog. As I have posted in the past, I am interested in studying people’s daily use of words. Lo and behold, ordering my favorite drink “grande single shot blended with whip mocha”. Now I have learned this term from a San Francisco Starbucks almost 20 years ago, apparently this is the correct terminology from the original Seattle Pike Place Starbucks. I have used my terminology in Seattle and it worked. But I guess the barrista this morning either has not learned the mother Starbucks tongue and maybe there is a local Starbucks dialect developing in the outskirts of the Bay Area. I got a puzzled “HUH”? “Mocha frapuccino?” OK, I had to quickly shift my brain to everyday Northern Californian English to translate mother Starbucks as I learned it: “I want a large HOT mocha, with a 50/50 mix of full fat and non fat milk, only one shot of espresso instead of the default two, and whipped cream”. Suffice to say, this was a perfect segue to discuss words, meaning, language, and how we know what we know.
In my first attempt at blogging, I focused on my professional focus on “marketing and communications law”, specifically trademarks and copyrights. I guess it was just a matter of time that I posted on a brand (Disclaimer: the above famous mark is owned by Starbucks and nothing in this blog is meant to imply any association between me and the Starbucks organization). This is a perfect opportunity to post a photo I took at The Met. “Hey, I wonder if this is where Starbucks got its logo?” My fair use of the logo above is meant solely to comment on my visit today and compare with a sculpture that looks like the logo.
Since I started this blog quoting the Gospel of John, I might as well segue into this inquiry with the beginning of John:
In the beginning was the Word… John 1:1 (ESV)
I quote this not for its philosophical or theological meanings at this time but instead for the common Merriam-Webster American English dictionary meaning of “word”, namely, “a sound or combination of sounds that has a meaning and is spoken or written.” See M-W.com. Yes, I understand the original verse was most likely written in Koine Greek, and the original Koine Greek word for “Word”, Logos, means much more than common “words.” However, I like the verse’s apparent implication that “words” are important bases to begin. I am aiming for as much clarity as I can muster in this inquiry; thus, for the sake of clarity, I will begin, like many of the statutory laws and contracts I read everyday, by defining the meanings of words most material to this inquiry. For the sake of a cohesive inquiry, I will primarily rely on the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (“M-W.com”) because it is easily accessible from all my electronic devices, it is ubiquitous, and I relied on its earlier hard copy versions to learn American English since grammar school. I am sure the substantive reasons for choosing M-W.com or another dictionary are broad and interesting subjects of inquiry, but I will save those for someone else or for a later date.
Let’s begin my defining “definition” with a painting I viewed last month at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.