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January 30, 2005


language hat

An amusing piece with a lot of truth in it, especially about waiters (although the subject of the French Waiter has surely been done to death). I once went into a ripoff café across the river from Notre Dame and waited with increasing impatience for a waiter to take my order, until a revelation came to me: I'm not here for the ridiculously overpriced coffee, I'm here for the view, and at the moment I'm getting the view for free! So I sat and gazed to my heart's content, and when I'd had my fill I arose and left, my wallet not a sou the lighter for the experience. Take that, Monsieur Snooty Waiter!

I'm afraid, though, that some of his remarks suggest to me that he's not as much of an habitué as he wants to appear. "Crème" (in full "café crème") is not "waiters' jargon for a café au lait," it's the French name for what English-speaking people call café au lait, so his advice is comparable to a Frenchman's advising his readers "Steak is waiter's jargon for bifteck, so you will get better service if you ask for 'a steak' -- I see too many French tourists saying 'Geeve mee zee bifteck, pliz.'" Well, that's good advice, but leaves you doubting the expertise of the writer.

Also, I'm not sure what the fact that the French use the term "un express" has to do with getting corrected for saying expresso instead of espresso in American coffeehouses (which are, after all, modeled after Italian, not French, prototypes). There is no word "expresso" in either French or Italian, so why shouldn't it get corrected?


As a Euro-Frog, I would say that "un express" is the regular small black coffee in France (also called "un petit noir" but never "un café noir" since coffee is black by default), whereas "un espresso/expresso" is an attempt to make what Italians call "ristretto". "Un (café/petit) crème" is "un express" with milk/cream, whereas "un café au lait" would be the lighter (in strength) and larger coffee with milk, of the type you would have for breakfast.
As for "bison pee", we'd say "jus de chaussette" (litterally, "sock juice")


I have no sympathy for him. If he goes to tourist cafes of course he'll get treated like this. Or perhaps I just enjoy being left alone in a cafe/restaurant without having someone hover constantly. and I'll forgive a lot because i'm getting my coffee in a proper cup rather than in cardboard or plastic. and I actually prefer this to the false smarminess you often get in the US, "friendly" but it's obvious they couldn't care less, so why lie about it?



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Or perhaps I just enjoy being left alone in a cafe/restaurant without having someone hover constantly.

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