It’s amazing to me how coffee can be called by so many things in the English language, other than “coffee”. Sometimes it’s even a word or phrase imported from another language. If you try to use any coffee nicknames instead of the word “coffee” in a lot of foreign countries (like my home in the Philippines), you’ll just get a blank stare and that’s the way it should be.
You should never assume your coffee nicknames will be understood, even in English.
I’ve heard a lot of coffee nicknames over the years, especially when I was in the military. The ones I can remember off the top of my head are:
When coffee is freshly brewed, the natural color is usually a very dark brown. Many times, it’s dark enough to be called black. Some coffee connoisseurs call it black gold even though black gold is an original slang term for petroleum.
If you think “black gold” isn’t used to refer to coffee very often, you’re mistaken. A movie with a title like “Black Gold” wouldn’t be made unless the term is commonly used somewhere.
This is what some senior military enlisted men called coffee, on occasion, when I was still in the military. It’s what I called it. You don’t believe me? Have you ever seen the movie “Heartbreak Ridge”? Although not quite correct, one of the quotes from the movie that was uttered by the character of Sergeant Major Choozoo was “Hey crotch rot! You gonna slurp my lifer’s juice out of my own cup?” Gunnery Sergeant (“Gunny”) Highway responded with “Yeah, I guess I should have gotten shots beforehand.”
Why was it called “Lifer Juice”? The name “Lifer” was given to anyone in the military who reenlisted beyond their first enlistment term, sometimes used in a derogatory way.
I know that Joe was a slang word for coffee during World War II, but no one really knows when and where it originated. I rarely hear it used for coffee in the United States and I never hear it in the Philippines.
The term “java” gets its origin from the island of Java in Indonesia. While it’s also used to refer to a specific programming language, the usage of java in place of coffee predates the usage for the programming language. I can’t give you any specific date, but I know it was being used before anyone ever heard of the programming language.
I no longer call coffee anything but coffee. It’s called “kape” in the Tagalog language and “cafe” (with or without an accent or diacritical mark) or “kapi” in other languages. People in most countries understand the English version of coffee, so it’s best to stick to using that when you’re not sure what it’s called where you are at the time.
I may be missing some coffee nicknames, although I doubt it. Do you have anything to add?
By: RT Cunningham
March 18, 2014
Food and Drink
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