And your 'Starbucks name' is ... (vaguely like your real name)

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Starbucks baristas have served coffee to Juckilyn, Sharlet and Angina, but the drinks were paid for by Jacqueline, Charlotte and Gina.

So, what's your "Starbucks name"? It probably doesn't resemble anything your parents chose.

The practice of baristas writing names on the cups of drink orders so the nonfat venti, sugar-free vanilla chai gets properly delivered to Sharon and not to Susan has become a cultural phenomenon. The screw-ups have become so common that they've sparked creation of Web Tumblr accounts such as and

A recent "Saturday Night Live" digital short had fun with Starbucks' new, home-brewing machine, the Verismo. Actress Vanessa Bayer gives her name as "Marcia," and the machine spits back "Amorfa" before it begins an escalating series of ridiculous comments.

My Starbucks name varies. On more than one occasion, it's been Gloria, scribbled in black marker on the side of a "tall" paper cup. As long as they get the order right, should it matter that Maria often becomes Medea or Malia?

Of course not. And before a legion of Starbucks employees fire off the angry emails ("Let's see YOU get names right when there's a line of 25 people, all day"), allow me to say that I greatly respect anyone who spends all day on their feet, serving a cranky public.

I used to work as a bank teller. If waiting for food or drink creates a demanding public, substitute the pressure to account for every penny, every day at the teller window.

Although it is easier to get the names straight when you demand photo ID.

There seem to be two different kinds of Starbucks names. The first is born of orders misinterpreted, which results in the weird-but-true approximations of everyday names. This is how "Danielle" becomes "Daniel" and "Daria" somehow morphs into "Dairiah?" (with question mark).

Daria McDermott, a health fitness blogger and personal health coach from New York City, said she's gotten "Garia" before. But "Dairiah?"

"The winner," she wrote in an email. "The '?' is my favorite part!"

Post-Gazette readers polled through Facebook shared similar stories. Summer Kostelnik wound up with a drink for "Saber," although she admitted that would make a cool name were she on "American Gladiator."

David M. Carroll was waiting for his drink last week until he realized the one for "Daria" was his (at least it wasn't "Dairiah?").

Deanna Ferrari gets "Deeanna" and "Diana," and once it was "Tiana."

Colleagues at the newspaper have gotten, recently, "Manny" (actually, Annie), "Melia" (Mila) and one, Virginia, has gotten so many blank stares, she's adopted what is known as a second type of "Starbucks name."

From drink orders to giving her name at restaurants, she is "Lulu." Mine is "Mia," itself derived from a funny misunderstanding decades ago while trying to set up a telephone interview.

We don't always use these names. Since the advent of the Internet, for example, I have used a variety of profile names on various sites. My personal email uses the name of a beloved pet who has been gone lo these many years.

My log-in name for New York magazine's website is quite different. I have yet another for Facebook and still another for Twitter.

How we choose to identify ourselves should not be taken lightly. There's nothing wrong with telling the barista your name is "Batman" or "Spider-Man," as readers have, but consider the cautionary tale of one Michael Scott (Steve Carell on NBC's "The Office").

In signing up for a Web dating site, he settles on "LittleKidLover."

"That way, people will know exactly where my priorities are at," he says, as the cameraman snickers.

Reader Walter Meyer said that in the pre-Starbucks era, his great-aunt made things simple by using a "cab name." Jean Striepeke called cabs and made dinner reservations as "Mrs. Stone."

"As a little kid, the first time I heard her use that, I was confused, but after she explained, it made sense."

And then there are those who just like to have fun with aliases. "Catfishing" aside, the turnabout seems to be fair play. Jason Gallagher tells this amusing (maybe true?) story:

"When 'The Hunger Games' came out in theaters, I went into a Starbucks and said my name was Primrose Everdeen," he said, referring to a lead character in the book and movie. "I got a funny look, but they used it.

"When the barista called out 'Primrose Everdeen!', I ran up to the front and yelled, 'I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!,' took the coffee and left."

I'll probably stick with "Mia."


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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