Hey, even Oprah has to spell out her name at Starbucks sometimes

Oprah Winfrey and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at the Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar in New York.
Oprah Winfrey and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at the Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar in New York.
Photo: Kevin Mazur (Getty Images for Starbucks and Teavana)

I am “blessed” with a first name that’s not completely unusual, but not one you’re likely to come across every day, either. So at the Starbucks, even after I spell out my name, I usually have to keep my ears peeled for Glenn, or Wendy, or some other name that is almost but not quite my name. A minor inconvenience in the overall big picture that is life.


Still, I was a little chastened to hear that even famous people have a similar problem sometimes. Celebrities… they really are just like us! As the world salivates while waiting for the opening of A Wrinkle In Time next week, stars Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey are getting a lot of play in the press. Time today discusses this short E!Online interview in which the three stars are asked if they actually do their errands. Y’know, just like normal people!

Turns out, only Witherspoon pumps her own gas, but Oprah does go out and get her own coffee. When Kaling wonders what it would be like to spell “Oprah” on a Starbucks cup, Winfrey reveals that the other day she was asked what her name was, followed by “And how do you spell that?”

As a defense of that poor confused barista, seeing Oprah walk into your Starbucks has to be something that’s completely out of context: no microphone, no fancy Wrinkle In Time costumery. Hopefully, this was not at a Starbucks branch that was pushing her Teavana tea line with posters featuring her picture. But honestly, if I was faced with the mighty Winfrey in person, I’d probably just fall at her feet, so.

At any rate, if having to spell your name out even happens to Oprah, it’s not surprising that it happens to mere mortals like us so frequently.



I was at a Starbucks in Toronto near the university, ordered my latte and the barista said “Describe your first name”. Not “Name for the cup?” or “How do you spell your name?”.

My first name is Tim.

I didn’t know what to say, so I said “Tim”.

She chuckled and said, “Ok, but that’s not what I asked.”

Should I have said “It’s the diminutive form Timothy, which is derived from the Greek name Τιμόθεος which means ‘honoring God’ and also a form of European perennial grass.”?