Elsewhere (98)
A Certain Newspaper in a Nutshell

Her Unspeakable Woes

Writing bravely in the Guardian, Icess Fernandez Rojas unearths a new realm of suffering, one hitherto ignored by the unthinking masses:

All I really wanted was a venti, white chocolate mocha without the whip cream.

No, don’t worry, it isn’t that. Ms Fernandez Rojas does get her beverage. The horror comes before that. 

I gave the barista, a lovely older woman, my name and she shot me the typical confused look. 

It begins.

I spelled it for her like a first-grader would recite her home phone number. “I-c-e-s-s. You know, like the goddess, but spelled like ice,” I explained. “What?” she asked again.

Yes, our latest Declarer of Ostentatious Grievance was trying to order a personalised coffee – or rather, coffee in a disposable cup that has her name scrawled on it before being thrown away - a baffling concept in itself, one made more complicated by the author’s uncommon and phonetically unobvious name. And the confused barista, despite being a lovely older woman, was, albeit unwittingly, grinding our Guardianista’s face beneath her heel.

In fairness to Starbucks, it’s not just baristas who are at fault but any restaurant or eatery requiring a name to add a personal touch to its service. 

You see, Ms Fernandez Rojas has endured this poignant political struggle before - “a lifetime of having my name misspelled and mispronounced.” And those tears won’t dry themselves, you know. Which is why you, the public, must be told. What with your dull and obvious names, like Jessica and Angela: 

Angela could get coffee at Starbucks with ease while Icess was still spelling her name out. Jessica was a staple at my local Chinese place even though Icess paid. And even Microsoft Word recognised Jenny as a proper pronoun, a proper person, over me; the red squiggle line was a constant reminder.

Spellcheck too? Will this oppression never end? One for our collection of classic sentences. And doubtless Ms Fernandez Rojas is intimately familiar with the spelling and pronunciation of every name of every employee at her local Chinese restaurant. 

Sometimes the endless quest for name validation, even in my own Word document, was exhausting.

Poor lamb. Perhaps a coffee would help. Oh wait.

It’s all very tragic. Our Guardian columnist just wants to “celebrate [her] uniqueness” in an “inclusive society” and her spellchecking software, the subtleties of which apparently elude her, is dashing those hopes. She isn’t being “validated” by Microsoft Word. It’s how utopias die. No, you black-hearted scoundrels, stop that smirking at once. Why won’t you feel her pain? Doesn’t its immensity weigh upon your breast? Well, at least Ms Fernandez Rojas isn’t suffering alone


Sniggering at the spelling errors of Starbucks baristas is now a thing among Guardian readers, who seem to imagine a ten-second interaction with someone whose own name they don’t know, and don’t care to know, is equivalent to a relationship with a long-standing colleague or close family member. (Next week in the Guardian: laughing at dyslexics and people for whom English is a second language.) Though I did quite like this dissenting comment: “This is a bit of a pot-and-kettle situation. A few weeks ago this newspaper ran, on its front page, the headline marquee ‘Plane carrying Bolivian president, Eva Morales, rerouted to Austria.’ There was no mention of when Bolivian president Evo Morales had announced a sex change.”