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Every coffee lover has a term of endearment for his or her cup of brew. Here are the stories behind some of the more frequently used expressions, like cup of Joe and java.

(Also, if you’re curious about  the mystery of where the word coffee comes from, look here.)

According to the folk etymology of cup of Joe, the term may be named after Josephus Daniels. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Daniels to be Secretary of the U.S. Navy. 

The story goes that Daniels instituted several reforms, including banning alcohol from U.S. Navy ships. With the booze gone, coffee became the strongest drink available to sailors. And then over time, it became known as a cup of Joe.

Java is another slang word for coffee. It is named after the main Indonesian island, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Coffee is grown abundantly on Java.

 When craving a cup of muddy water, many of us head to Starbucks, which got its start in Seattle in 1971. The three founders of the largest coffeehouse company in the world were an English teacher, a history teacher, and a writer. This may explain the company’s name. Starbuck is a character in “Moby-Dick.” He is a Quaker from Nantucket who is a first mate aboard the Pequod.

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72 Comments

  1. Jordan -  May 15, 2013 - 11:27 pm

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    Reply
  2. Sigi -  May 13, 2011 - 12:15 pm

    There’s an island called “Starbuck? Named after Valentine or Obed Starbuck, whaling family of Nantucket. The island is between Phoenix and Maquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Kiribati .
    Perhaps the three founders checked their history and thus named it after that family.

    Reply
  3. Jean Manuforti -  January 24, 2011 - 8:53 am

    Having read all the way to the end of these very good coffee-soaked posts I’m gasping… for a cup of tea! Sorry, javaheads.

    Reply
  4. Carl -  January 23, 2011 - 10:37 am

    I thought a “cup of Joe” was from a freak accident where a Navy seaman was accidentally ground into the coffee while at port for resupply.

    Reply
  5. Keith -  January 18, 2011 - 8:23 am

    I was in the navy for a few years, and coffee is pretty much a staple of every sailor. Im guessing with the attitudes of sailors “a cup of joe” would make more sense coming from this source. Often ridiculing our upper chain of commands as a joke, it only makes sense of referring to the new “beverage of choice” as a cup of joe.

    Reply
  6. Jancann -  January 8, 2011 - 8:26 pm

    I haven’t been this interested in comments in maybe………ever!
    One of the nicest sites I have ever visited, the information & the people.
    jancann

    Reply
  7. Francesca -  January 8, 2011 - 5:24 pm

    Oh, just kidding. The town in Washington is also called “Starbuck”, probably after Starbuck of Moby Dick as well. Disregard my former comment.

    Reply
  8. Francesca -  January 8, 2011 - 5:20 pm

    There is a town in Washington called Starbucks. Maybe they named the company after Starbuck from Moby Dick, but seeing as they are from Washington and some people have been criticizing that the company is called “Starbucks” and not “Starbuck’s”, I think that this town might also be a possibility.

    Reply
  9. LADY GAGA -  January 8, 2011 - 7:41 am

    HELLO ALL MY BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS! I LOVE COFFEE!

    Reply
  10. Janae -  January 8, 2011 - 5:51 am

    Wait, Tom….a starbuck is an apparatus for holding wood while you’re sawing it. It’s composed of two supports nailed together in the shape of an “X”, (hence the star) with another piece connecting the two. The wood to be sawn is placed in the top sections of the “X” so that the saw can cut through cleanly. Wait a minute! That’s a sawbuck, not a starbuck. Maybe I’d better get a cup of coffee before I discuss this subject.

    Reply
  11. claudia -  January 8, 2011 - 3:43 am

    WHATever……..

    Reply
  12. Kathy -  January 8, 2011 - 2:39 am

    The first time I saw that chicken place, I was in NYC and couldn’t figure out the “Pope Yes”. Was it a religious restaurant? I may have had a couple of beers.

    Reply
  13. tinker -  January 7, 2011 - 1:56 pm

    Apostrophes do matter. It’s the difference between the chicken restaurant’s being called Popeye’s and being called Pope Yes.

    Reply
  14. William -  January 7, 2011 - 1:09 pm

    Best cup of coffee I’ve ever had was in a German pub or Gasthaas in Frankfurt AM one Sunday morning back in 1968. Usually I went there for the beer and sausages in the evening by the way. No American served coffee, regardless of its fame has ever topped that German coffee.

    Reply
  15. Kate -  October 28, 2010 - 9:42 am

    I love coffee! I think I’m gonna name one of my kids Starbuck, I like it. And was that really Lady GaGa?!?!?!?!?!?!?! :o

    Reply
  16. Jocantha Telsey -  October 9, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    this is ridiculous, hot word is very vague and doesn’t explain their subjects well. no proof, no sources, ugh. however, it does provide some basic knowledge.
    @westmount, montreal: lady gaga probably did NOT comment on this article, it could just be a kid joking around.

    Reply
  17. person -  October 4, 2010 - 4:07 pm

    I thought the people who founded Starbucks were from Starbucks, Washington. Or maybe the map I looked at was lying that there is a city named that. There is also Marcus.

    Reply
  18. Fashmash -  October 4, 2010 - 2:51 pm

    The name Starbucks (and the mermaid logo) came from a P.R. company. The logo comes from a 16th English tile that the P.R. company found. That’s the story one of the founders tells

    Reply
  19. A.Alaalas -  September 15, 2010 - 10:22 pm

    Like Starbucks, you will find much varied signage for Grocer, e.g., Grocers, Grocer’s, Grocers’ when in fact there is only one grocer on the premises.

    Reply
  20. westmount, montreal -  September 11, 2010 - 7:09 am

    MORE IMPORTANTLY….HAS NOBODY NOTICED
    THAT LADY GAGA WROTE A POST ON THIS ARTICLE???
    SHE IS ONLY THE MOST INSPIRING AND FAMOUS PERFORMER IN THE
    WORLD TODAY… WE LOVE YOU GAGA!!!!

    Reply
  21. tristram -  September 11, 2010 - 3:07 am

    To me, the bigger question/mystery is the odd relation of what looks like a trifecta in the making. Starbucks, Macy’s and Folger’s Coffee.

    Nantucket, early 1600s. Purchased by a group of men from a “broker” representing the standing ownership by local indians. Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John Swayne, and William Pike for, “thirty pounds…and two Beaver hats one for myself and one for my wife.

    Edward Starbuck, while not a “founder” of the island, was an original inhabitant and originated from Devon England just as the group of others.

    Naturally, you’ve heard that Nantucket was the world epicenter of whaling back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Spearheaded (no pun intended) by a few prominent families of particular expertise; Coffin, Starbuck, Macy, Gardner etc. These families’ reputation is represented across the globe with south pacific islands named such inventive names like Coffin Island, Starbuck island and.. well, you get the idea.

    The potential trifecta’s conspiracy theory-worthy mascot is none other than the Starbuck logo. Especially the most recent and current version.

    Goes something like this: Thomas Macy was the ancestor of R.H. Macy who founded the famous department store, and was born on Nantucket Island. While working as a deck hand aboard a whaler, he got a red star tattooed on his hand. I’ll get back to this later.

    James Folger, also of Nantucket Island, made his way to San Francisco during the goldrush via the Panama Canal. As he’d done in Nantucket numerous times, he found work rebuilding after many of the fires destroyed buildings. One of which was a spice company owned by William H Bovee. After rebuilding, and working for Bovee producing roasted and ground coffee, the two founded the San Francisco coffee firm, known today as Folgers Coffee. Now we’re getting somewhere.

    Whaling. Back to whaling. As customary, whalers and whaleships featured figurehead affixed to the prow of the ship to ward off bad seas and ensure hospitable forebearance. Some fo these figureheads were carved to resemble bountiful mermaids.

    The Joseph Starbuck, built by Joseph Starbuck in 1838 and like many Nantucket whaeships, featured a rather sexy mermaid figurehead attached to the ship’s prow. I guess the whales became overwhelmed with lust, and rendered unable to navigate properly.

    So, this version of the Starbucks logo, which was used for years, shows a Star and a busty mermaid. We have a tie-in with the Starbuck name from Nantucket, Joh Starbuck’s whaler The Joh Starbuck, the mermaid figurehead, the Macy’s red star and, of course, the coffee connection with Folger having been a deckhand on a whaler.

    So, the current version of the Starbuck’s logo features the mermaid, with a star on her crown. Nantucket, Starbucks, and Macy’s – whaling, department stores, coffee and mermaids. And Edward Folger (coffee) whose son James lived in Nantucket and relocated to San Francisco to ultimately founded the iconic coffee company, Folger’s Coffee. How is it that two fo the most prominent name sin the coffee industry are closely tied to nantucket, which oddly has not coffee tie-in whatsoever?

    http://logoblink.com/2009/07/07/starbucks-logo-mania

    Yet, there is one other factor here, another Coffin family member.

    That’s me!

    -Tristram Coffin

    arrrggghhh!

    Reply
  22. ummmmmmmm ya know -  September 10, 2010 - 9:18 am

    Hey me we should get back to our school work before Mr. smarr gets mad and we get caught!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
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