‘I just wanted my bagel’: an academic stickler bites back

A New York professor has become a hero to all those who are sensitive about the use and abuse of English after taking Starbucks to task over its “invented language”.

August 18, 2010

According to reports in the US press, Lynne Rosenthal, associate professor of English at Mercy College, claimed she was forcibly ejected from a branch of the coffee giant after refusing to answer a server’s enquiry about toppings on a bagel she had ordered.

She objected to being asked to state whether she wanted butter or cheese on her bagel, telling The Huffington Post that the language used was “Orwellian”.

“I just wanted a multigrain bagel,” Professor Rosenthal said. “I refused to say ‘without butter or cheese’. When you go to Burger King, you don’t have to list the six things you don’t want. Linguistically, it’s stupid, and I’m a stickler for correct English.”

Professor Rosenthal, who said she would never visit Starbucks again, claimed that the assistant refused to serve her unless she specified whether she wanted butter or cheese, which she refused to do. Instead, she shouted: “I want my multigrain bagel!”

A stand-off ensued and police were called. Professor Rosenthal was then escorted from the building and told she would be arrested if she returned.

“It was very humiliating to be thrown out,” she said of the incident on 15 August. “All I did was ask for a bagel.”

Professor Rosenthal accused Starbucks of “linguistic fascism” because it insisted on referring to things by an “invented language”.

But she added: “Without the language, Starbucks would be nothing. Even Dunkin’ Donuts has frappuccinos, or whatever they’re called there.”

However, she added that she had no plans to become a crusader for the proper use of English and said she had turned down numerous requests for television interviews.

“I didn’t go into this with any intent to make a point,” Professor Rosenthal said. “I simply wanted my bagel.”


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