I had an interesting experience during a meeting at work today regarding terminology usage.
Industry standard terms
Have you ever stopped and thought about the industry standard terms that you use on a regular or even daily basis? For instance, if you stopped at a Starbucks coffee shop this morning what Starbucks-specific terms did you use to order what you wanted. If you shopped for a computer or software sometime recently what industry-specific and even store-specific, terms did you use as part of that process? It’s fascinating to stop sometimes and listen to the terms that we use as we go about our day. Have you ever though back to the days when you first encountered those words?
New terms for coffee
Going back to the Starbucks example, do you remember when you first encountered their specific terms for coffee? I grew up with standard sizes of small, medium, and large. The dimensions of same varied depending upon the item in question and the establishment that was selling the item but they were standard terms and easily understand. They were also highly representative of the quantity of the item that you were going to receive. In contrast, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta are not terms that are standard, easily understood, or highly representative of the implied quantity. They have meaning only within the four walls of a Starbucks coffee shop.
Introducing new terms
On those rare occasions that I find myself in a Starbucks location I struggle to keep a straight face as I place my coffee order, and am always endlessly fascinated by patrons capable of adding additional terms like “skinny” to their coffee order without as much as a giggle. But Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta are now terms that rattle easily off the tongues of Starbucks patrons. Since those terms were first introduced into the coffee marketplace and reinforced by baristas they have become, in one sense, standard industry terms, albeit in a limited capacity. But consider the mammoth effort involved in establishing those terms versus using the more common small, medium, and large?