Pequod Erat Demonstratum

It’s widely believed that a) the Starbucks coffee chain was named after the first mate in Melville’s Moby-Dick, because b) Melville’s Starbuck loved coffee. It turns out that (b) is false – Melville’s Burt Lancaster as StarbuckStarbuck has no particular affinity (caffeinity?) for the bean – but that (a) is nevertheless true: the founder was a Moby-Dick fan who wanted to name the store Pequod (the name of Captain Ahab’s ship) but was persuaded to switch to a different Moby-Dick reference because a place that sells stuff to drink shouldn’t have something that sounds like “pee” in the title. (I guess they never heard of Pinot noir?)

I will simply add that although (b) is indeed false, the text of Moby-Dick does contain the line “it’s a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck.”

I wonder whether Galactica’s Starbuck (the 1970s one) was named after Melville’s? He might be (they’re both ship’s officers), but I suspect at least as strong an influence came from the charming con man named Starbuck played by Burt Lancaster in the popular 1956 film The Rainmaker. The fact that the name contains the word “Star” probably helped too.


One Response to Pequod Erat Demonstratum

  1. Anna Morgenstern October 24, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Now the question becomes whether The Rainmaker’s Starbuck was named after Melville’s. 🙂

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