Which Word Wednesday: Espresso vs. Expresso

By May 2, 2012 culture, language 2 Comments

There I was, scanning the dessert menu of a quaint little place called Island Creperie, and my eyes did a double take. Not on the St. Marteen Crepe with its delectable combo of bananas and Nutella (which was fabulous, by the way). No, it was after that, when I stopped at the Hot Drinks section to look over my coffee options.

Right there, for all the world to see (and adopt!) was expresso. ack!

And of course, I couldn’t contain myself. I had to discuss. Language talk makes for delightful table conversation, so I drug my beach retreat friends into a riveting discussion about which was correct. (The Hubster is accustomed to this. Lodge Ladies? Not so much. My apologies to them.)

I was so stunned, I took a picture. Of a menu. I am a weirdo. But I had to document what I often hear but haven’t ever seen in print.

Lodge Lady J mentioned that in France espresso was a small shot, un express. Maybe that’s why this little French-like restaurant spelled espresso incorrectly? But why not just call it un express to make it French-authentic? hmm. My only consolation: Another Which Word Wednesday, plopped in my lap. On vacation, even!

Here’s what I found in The Oxford American Dictionary:

espresso :: noun
strong black coffee made by forcing steam through ground coffee beans; from Italian (caffè) espresso, literally ‘pressed out (coffee).’

So espresso is Italian; un express is French. Perhaps as Americans we are combing the two to form the hideous expresso?

The Oxford American Dictionary goes on to note: “The often-occurring variant spelling expresso—and its pronunciation |ikˈspresō|—is incorrect and was probably formed by analogy with express.” Makes sense, the association of express, a word we know, with espresso, a foreign term.

Makes sense, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Then again, the restaurant also spelled mocha with a K (moka is also Italian, a brewing process for a coffee drink with no chocolate). Sighs all around.

What’s my WWW verdict? Pretty simple: Espresso has no X. And restaurants as fabulous as Island Creperie don’t need to resort to exotic spellings to make their menus look fancy. Just spell it correctly. That’s fancy enough.

What’s your verdict? Do you like a little X in your espresso? Do you want to launch a campaign to save espresso from those who do? Do share in the comments.

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Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

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