Lynne Rosenthal/ Stupid Bagel Woman/ Please shut down the Evening Standard

Sometimes you pick up a copy of the Evening Standard and regret it. In fact, often I regret it. It isn’t that the paper is written badly, lots of papers are, it is the angle which it imputes in each story.

With exception of some of the columnists, the gutter press always take the path of least resistance. In most cases this involves appeals to “common sense,” even when this involves backing idiots.

Idiots like Professor Lynne Rosenthal. After ordering a Bagel in a branch of Starbucks, she is asked if she wants butter or cheese with it. Rather than saying no just plain please, this woman takes option b) [1]

b) Throw a fit, saying that if you had wanted butter or cream cheese you would have asked for it, and that the fact that this obvious logic was not understood illustrates the bad grammar of the staff, tout the importance of correct language and, sticking relentlessly by your position, eventually call the staff person an “asshole” until you are thrown out?

What an “asshole!” [2] As The Economist points out, Ms Rosenthal is showing how little she understands language. There are many nuances in asking for a Bagel, and for every one person pedantically asking for one expecting no butter there is one person expecting butter without asking. Being asked to clarify takes no time compared to having to replace an incorrect item.

She subjects a poor service clerk to a barrage of abuse for asking the question which she or he has been trained, nay drilled, to ask. Anyone who has worked behind a counter will be familiar with the easy air of arrogance with which you can be treated. This Professor made a cruel stand against people who could not fight back, people who at best could continue to ask her perfectly reasonable questions.

In the end the police had to be called, three policeofficers ejected her from the premises, that is how unreasonable this woman is. Yet she is lauded because it is an easier story to write than that exploring the abuse those in the service industry endure.

How do the gutter press report on this? The make her a martyr of course! She was only standing up for common sense of course! The phone some rentaquotes called the Plain English Campaign to explain this particular subject “drives people mad” of course!

In short, the writers of the Evening Standard and all the gutter press act in a worse way than even Ms Rosenthal. She can only be an “asshole” to one small group of people at a time (perhaps a 20meter radius delineates the maximum), the Evening Standard pollutes the air it all the way to Newbury, that’s 60 miles away! This is why people don’t buy papers any more and look bored while they read free ones they find in the bin on trains.

Ms Rosenthal is an “asshole,” she went out of her way to ruin someone else’s day. All because she has a messiah complex in which only she can save the English Language. Given the above, the fact that this Professor is a hypocrite too should come as no surprise. Ms Rosenthal is offended by the “language fascism” of Starbucks. For someone who is “a stickler for correct English” I find it amusing that she considers comparing a coffee shop to the world’s greatest monsters appropriate.

Like I said, “asshole.”

UPDATE: Here is the link to the original article, which I did not originally include.


[1] I’m quoting from The Economist because it is excellent (apart from the flippant reference to Asperger’s which seems unnecessary.)

[2] She’s American, so the spelling is correct for her vernacular.


10 thoughts on “Lynne Rosenthal/ Stupid Bagel Woman/ Please shut down the Evening Standard

  1. What a stupid article. She wasn’t asked ” if she wants butter or cheese with it. ” She was told she had to ask for it without butter or cheese. Please get your facts straight.
    Ms Rosenthals refusal to comply with the St@rbucks policy was sensible and sane.

    The server, trying to comply with a stupid company policy was put in a difficult position. The sad thing is that the server will probably get fired because of the bad publicity.

  2. “Ms Rosenthals refusal to comply with the St@rbucks policy was sensible and sane.”

    She was ejected from a coffee shop by three policemen for calling someone an “asshole.” That is your definition of sensible and sane?

    “What a stupid article. She wasn’t asked ” if she wants butter or cheese with it. ” She was told she had to ask for it without butter or cheese. Please get your facts straight.”

    No, there is a near zero possibility that she was told:

    “you must say “please give me a bagel without cheese of butter” or I cannot serve you.”

    The server was asking for clarification which Ms Rosenthal was unwilling to provide because, as The Economist points out, she doesn’t really understand the English Language.

    Quoting: “The academic, in her sixties, ordered a plain bagel at a Manhattan branch but refused to add “without butter and cheese” when asked, saying she had made clear what she wanted.”

    She had not made it clear what she wanted, had she? If she had, there would have been no follow up question.

    Many people order bagels and expect butter, or at least expect to be asked whether they do or do not want butter. Starbucks policy, or seeking confirmation (the policy is seeking confirmation and not of insisting on the usage of certain phrases, this is not their policy, it would never be a policy, only idiots would think this was a policy, any firm with such a policy would not have lasted this long, this story is based on a massive fraud) is entirely sensible.

    I am still appalled by this woman’s arrogance in insisting that the common rules of decency which govern conversation do not apply to her.

    “The server, trying to comply with a stupid company policy was put in a difficult position.”

    No, this is untrue, there is no company policy along these lines. What you have said is simply based on falsehoods. Go to a Starbucks and ask for a bagel. When they say do you want butter or cheese with that? Say “no.” You will be provided with a plain bagel. That is what will happen. I will brook no argument. Go and video your encounter and put it on youtube if you wish to disprove me.

    “The sad thing is that the server will probably get fired because of the bad publicity.”

    No idea what will happen to the server, it would be sad if Ms Rosenthal’s behaviour gets them sacked.

    I realise I haven’t linked to the Evening Standard article! Here it is. Judge for your selves readers.

    1. Thank you for the link.

      She seems like a bit of an oik frankly, and certainly not someone who truly understands the English Language as a living breathing thing.

      I may follow this up to see what happens as Language has always interested me.

  3. Paradox of the Starbucks bagel‘s professor.=4
    Effective communication occurs when the transmission or exchange of information and idea occurs unbridled by narrow-minded attitudes, various forms of language barrier or unnecessary delays. Language is a dynamic thought conveyor. The vocabulary input and output of a language is constantly in a state of flux and reflux according to the requirement of the moment. The word by itself is a very incomplete bearer of meaning; its meaning may be clarified by using additional words. The role of communication specialist is to transcend or minimize those barriers rather than become the custodian.
    Grammarians, linguists, logicians are among the well-known communication specialists.
    Grammarians and language teachers focus on the structure of language on its writing form; they analyze its expression; linguists focus on spoken language as is whereas logicians analyze its meaning. Linguist and logicians don’t care how meanings are expressed. Although all of those communication specialists differ in scope, they overlap at certain points. Those communication specialists teach us how to communicate smoothly even with asymmetric interlocutors.
    Concise and clear communication is usually done through the economy of words but redundancy sometime help clarify ideas, reduce mental fatigue and help reducing mistake. Redundancy basically means the parts of language that could be done away with while allowing the meaning of the language to remain the same. That is why novels and newspapers are easy to read because they are often highly redundant whereas textbooks in exact science and mathematics such as theoretical physics engineering are not redundant and are difficult to read. The barrister use this process of elimination by asking the English professor to rule out what should not be in the bagel.
    There is no royal road to effective communication; the delivery of the message is what count not the medium used. There is no such thing as a pure language. A Russia linguistic congress held in Moscow in 1930 defined language purity as a mere fiction, reflecting at best a pedantic attitude, at worst an attitude either aristocratic or chauvinistic.
    The English professor has an impeccable credential as a specialist in communication. I do not question the breadth and scope of her knowledge as a PhD English professor but her overall understanding of the ultimate aim and function of language appear tangential during her transactions at Starbucks. I think that she owes the Starbucks staff, the NYPD and the customers an apology for choosing a wrong platform to prove her point.
    The US government should subsidize Starbucks for doing a healthy community service. Starbucks is acting as an extension of the libraries, schools and universities by allowing anyone to stay at the store for long period of time and able to use its Wi-Fi, chairs, table, electricity and bathroom free of charge in exchange for a cup of coffee it sell for a modicum amount of less than two dollars. Some don’t even buy anything there.

  4. This is a story in a newspaper. And newspaper stories are notoriously unreliable. For instance the case of the child kicked off a bus for wearing an England football tshirt was totally fabricated. As was the story about the women who was kicked off a bus for breastfeeding. So take the story with a pinch of salt and read between the lines a bit.

    “The academic … ordered a plain bagel … but refused to add “without butter and cheese” The key word is plain. In normal English that implies no fancy stuff, on it’s own, normal, unadorned. So just repeating that you want a plain bagel implies no butter or cheese or anything else that might be added to a bagel.

    Take into account that his was in America where if you ask for a something they will go through umpteen different options, rather than the British way were they expect you to ask for the extras rather than be pestered for them.

    Also take into account that this is Starbucks where they label a small coffee Tall, a medium Grande, and a large Venti so they do have a corportate langauge that customers need to understand to order there.

    This is not new news either. People have been pissed off about Starbucks, and other corporates’, langauge for a long time.
    “Welcome to Starbucks, how can I help you?”

    “I’d like a large dark-roast, please.”

    “You mean a Venti?”

    *grumble*. Now, I’ve worked retail. It sucks to be messed with. You’re just trying to do your job. Your trainer and/or manager tells you to call it a “Venti (TM)”. I would normally understand, really I would. I’d play your despotic marketing games, normally, and call it a flying plaid pig if it made a deep, nutty-black steaming cup of the mud of life and awakening appear in front of me sooner. But it will not. And I shall not. And it’s Monday morning, and all I want is a large-as-you-have-got cup of raw, hot black coffee. And besides, this is the United States of America, not Italy, and Starbucks started in freakin’ Seattle. Why aren’t they using an Inuit word for a large cup of coffee? OK, sure, Starbucks may use Italian espresso machines, but a Ferrari owner does not a rally racer make, right? (Call a spade a fucking shovel)

    “No, I’d like a large, please.”, emphatic emphasis on the “please”.

    “I’m sorry,”, (No, you’re not, really, now are you?), “But we have Tall, Grande, and Venti!”, extra perkiness. Extra perkiness solves all problems in retail and customer relations. Also, she’s apparently had her coffee. I feel like I’m approaching a fickle, angry oracle, and I must be supplicant and be bearing offerings to recieve the wisdom of the ether.

    “That’s nice. One large dark-roast please, no room for cream or sugar.”, (insert potentially lethal Jedi Stare (TM)). Honey, you do still understand the difference between small, medium, and large, don’t you? Starbucks can’t seriously have a brainwashing program that frighteningly effective, can it? Can it?!)

    “We have Tall, Grande…”, she stops midsentence, and likely sees the trapped, caged, wild animal stare in my eyes of an IT cubeslave at 7:45 in the godforsaken morning without his precious coffee, yet, “… a-a large you say?”

    “Yes, please, a large dark-roast, no room for cream or sugar, please.”. Victory! My coffee is presented to me, and I immediately feel much better with it’s bitter warmth in my hands, and that I didn’t have to call it by some silly Italian word that likely really means something insulting.

    Eventually, the more reliable of the staff got used to it, and never questioned it. I’d ask for a large, and they’d give it to me, no questions asked or marketing flim-flammery foisted upon my weary self. It was a good battle, well fought.

    I noticed other regulars began calling it a large as well, and this made it all worth it.

  5. She went to a cafe, not a market. If she wanted to purchase individual defined items, she should’ve gone to a supermarket. No one will ask at a supermarket whether she wants her bagels with butter. At a cafe/restaurant, you are not ordering discrete items. When I order soda at mcdonalds, it comes with ice. If I don’t want ice, I have to specify it. A burger comes with lettuce, unless I specify otherwise. And so at a starbucks, a bagel comes with either butter or cream cheese, included in the price. Don’t want either, specify it.

    1. Hmm…

      All the Rosenthals I know of are assholes. Therefore all Rosenthals are assholes.

      Thank you for providing further evidence for my General Theory of Rosenthals. All I need are even more data points to confirm this theory.

      (I find intentionally getting deductive reasoning wrong amusing, oh dear)

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