Tens of millions of people have had coffee at the upscale coffee house chain Starbucks. Do you ever wonder about that name? Companies often either use their founders’ names or somehow refer to the product, like Ford is named for its founder, Henry Ford, and IT&T, International Telephone and Telegraph, refers to a technology.
Starbucks doesn’t follow either pattern. So who is Starbucks? The name is actually Starbuck, and he is a character in a novel. But not just any novel: Starbuck was the first mate on the doomed whaleship Pequod in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
In the novel, Starbuck is a religious man, a Quaker from Nantucket, whose reasoned approach to life stood in contrast to the insane obsession of Captain Ahab. Starbuck thought Ahab’s obsession with the white whale was madness, yet he continued to serve on the doomed whaler Pequod. There are hundreds and hundreds of scholarly articles on the novel, and on Ahab and Starbuck.
There are several versions on how the company got its name, but none of them are related to literature. Apparently the founders were searching for a combination of sounds, and liked sounds starting with ‘st’ because it’s a strong sound. Someone rememb ered Starbuck from the novel, and they all liked the sound of the name. So Starbucks it became.
There’s nothing about coffee in Moby Dick and there is nothing about whales in Starbucks.
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