Friends of Semantic Compositions

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« Classification is a tricky thing | Main | Hearing in color »

February 17, 2004



I think they receive indoctrination.

My obstinate non-conformity to fast food terminology consists of mapping the offered sizes to small, medium and large.

McDonald's sells three sizes of Chicken McNuggets, I think it's six, ten and twenty. I order 'the largest size'. I always have to clarify.

At the coffee place the sizes are in Italian. I don't speak Italian. I suppose I could learn, but they're supposed to be serving me. I order in English. They deal better than the McDonald's people.


On the assumption that this is junk food and you don't really want any (pragmatically reasonable, I'd have thought), you could ask them, 'As opposed to what?', and be perplexed. If they repeat their name for it, you repeat yours after 'That's what I said'. Persist in bafflement and break down their defences.


"Choco cherry love blizzard"? Was this named in honour of Barry White? Bet it tastes great with a heaping platter of Chef's Salty Balls.

Re the countertop corrections, I suspect that chains such as DQ demand consistency - no, absolute conformity - from their staff. It's quite likely that if the pimply-faced assistant manager at your local DQ overhears the exhausted single mother of three who is serving you NOT saying the officially approved name of the product, she'll be reprimanded, or have her children thrown in the fryer. Higher up the food chain (ie in nicer restaurants), workers tend to have more autonomy.

SO while my instinct is always to be a smart ass in this situation, my pity for the shmucks behind the counter keeps me in line.

language hat

While I share reuben's sympathy for the workers (I try never to take my rage at corporate/bureaucratic nonsense out on the nearest hapless target), my sympathy would not extend to actually using the nauseating official names that have for some reason become universal. When I go to Starbuck's I ask for a "small coffee," and they give it to me without asking "do you by chance refer to the Super-Extra-Large-But-Not-As-Large-As-the-Superduperwhammo-Doublepluslarge?" If I got the kind of shit you're describing at any place of business, I would say (in your case) "I want a chocolate-cherry blizzard, and I have no desire to call it by some stupid corporate name. If you want to sell me one, fine; if you don't, I'll go elsewhere." I'd say it in the friendliest possible way, to make it clear I wasn't mad at them personally, but I would want any evil supervisors lurking in the background to know that I resented their little game and wasn't goiing to put up with it. If enough people did that, the policy might change.

Whatever happened to "the customer is always right"?


I like to order "the middle one", at coffee places. (The smallest and largest ones also work, but medium usually doesn't exist; when it does, it's the smallest one.) People understand.

In Quebec, I've found most (non-national chain) places have small and large, or small medium and large.

There's also a suggested question on a new citizenship exam:

Arrange in order, smallest to largest: jumbo, giant, extra large.


Boost Juice are often the same, although some take pity on you and don't require that you inform the entire shopping centre that you want a Berry Bang, thanks very much. But some do.

I assume it's a branding exercise of some kind.


Perhaps this Doonesbury sums up your feelings on this matter:


I work in a customer service position, on the phone, and the reason I repeat things that seem obvious is two-fold:

I am supposed to. Those directly in charge of me want me to, and if I don't it will count against me when these things are kept track of.

Secondly, I deal with people's money, and I am responsible for errors I make. I repeat things that sound blastingly obvious, because if my recorded call is brought up in my defense, I want it to be just that; In my defense. I don't want it to point out that I, in fact, made a $15,000 error, that the company will not hate me for.

I doubt this is the same reason a retail food establishment would do this, but it may be a "follow the leader" sort of exchanged from a larger business to a retail store.

Just my two cents.


I'm in high school and I work at Dairy Queen. Just to clarify, a chocolate-cherry blizzard is a blizzard with chocolate ice cream and cherries. A chocolate-covered cherry blizzard is made with vanilla ice cream, cherries, and chocolate cone dip. They're two different things, so the server is just trying to make sure they prepare the right blizzard for you. They're just trying to do their jobs.

Semantic Compositions

Sara: I've never seen a chocolate-cherry Blizzard (as described in your comment) on the menu, although I wouldn't be surprised to hear that servers are trained to make a number of off-menu recipes that might be requested. Aside from that, I'm finding myself confused. When someone orders an Oreo Blizzard, are the cashiers trained to ask if they meant a Mint Oreo Blizzard? Ditto for Banana and Banana Split. In other words, if cashiers are told to assume that I mean what I say with some pairs of similar-sounding menu items, why not others?


If you ordered an item that's not on the menu, like a chocolate-cherry Blizzard or a banana Blizzard, I would think that you meant to order an item that's actually on the menu, and would clarify before I made the Blizzard and served it to you. A majority of DQ customers are total morons who can barely read, so on a number of occasions people have clearly ordered strawberry Blizzards (not on the menu), been served their Blizzards, and asked where the cheesecake is, thinking they ordered Strawberry Cheesecake Blizzards. The same goes for banana (not on the menu) and Banana Split Blizzards. It's not a part of training, it's something that's learned after you make a customer a dessert they ordered and then have to throw it away because they aren't a good reader. So no, if you were to order an Oreo Blizzard, I wouldn't ask if you meant to order another menu item. If you ordered something that's not on the menu, like a chocolate-cherry Blizzard, I would assume that you were another idiot and would clarify the order before I made it for you. And no, "absolute conformity" isn't demanded, and most of the "shmucks behind the counter" are just bored teenagers waiting to leave for college.

Semantic Compositions

I'm more sympathetic than you think regarding customers being morons -- elsewhere on this site, I've written about a DQ customer who asked for a Coke, and when asked "do you mean a diet Pepsi?", said "yes, a diet Coke". There are some valid linguistic reasons why someone might have produced that statement (which I covered in the post), but from the perspective of a cashier who goes through dozens of similar conversations in the course of a day, it must be extremely frustrating to hear such cluelessness. So your point that the communicative problems hardly run in one direction is well taken.

But if you're not being trained in off-menu recipes to deal with odd-sounding requests, then it's not clear to me that the sort of clarification that was originally discussed should be needed. As you showed with the strawberry cheesecake example (now you've gone and made me hungry, too!), customers got angry when not served the thing on the menu that was closest to what they said (assuming there's only one item on the menu that actually includes the word "strawberry"), rather than being happy that the literal meaning of their order was followed.

Having said all that, it's quite clear that whatever might be the case with other fast-food workers, you're definitely going to be ready for college!

EFL Geek

Yeah, I remember my days behind the counter at A&W and other service jobs. Customers are realy morons.

One job, I can't remember which, changed the popular phrase The customer is always right to The customer is not always right, but they are never wrong. Which wasn't still wasn't very helpful when deailing with morons.

Amanda Dairy Queen Blizzards...
Chocolate Cherry Love consists of cherries and chocolate chunks.
Chocolate covered cherry is cherries and cone dip.
If I were to have a customer ask for a chocolate cherry blizzard I would simply ask "Would you like chocolate chunks or cone dip?"


the reason people are corrected is because the Chocolate-Covered Cherry Blizzard is different than a chocolate-cherry blizzard.. but most peopel want the chocolate covered ones.. haha i know this because i am the one behind the counter asking people what they really want!!! haha


The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride f*cking with you. F*ck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.


The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride f*cking with you. F*ck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.


The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride f*cking with you. F*ck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.


The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride f*cking with you. F*ck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.


The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride f*cking with you. F*ck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.


The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride f*cking with you. F*ck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.


As long as we need to extend our rights over the things we pay for, then consider it equally important that there is such thing as "doing our job" - they are rights as well. Thanks!

Effective Credit Repair

Ah yes, the pride. People tend to expect STANDARDS from other, higher that what they can get.

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well,did you know that the fast food and casual dining restaurants you eat in every day have secret menu items? A select few are in on the secret and now you are a part of this culinary elite. We aren't just talking about the barely secret In-N-Out Burger "hold the bread, lettuce wrapped burger,” oh no. We have items all over town, including an unhealthy smoothie at Jamba Juice and a San Francisco-only Mc10:35. The Consumerist is all over this, and now you can be too!!!!!

Repair Credit

Thanks for this comparative information about "Chocolate-Covered Cherry Blizzard"

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