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Paul Midler submits this one from South China:

Paul explains:

Found this place closed and confirmed with next-door shop that it had once been an actual business. Yes, it’s funny, but there’s also something linguistic here. At first blush, it seems like such a bad naming effort, too far from the original—but is it? The shop owner here might have taken out the “T” from the initial consonant cluster (hard to pronounce for Mandarin speakers) to create “Sarbucks,” but that first syllable looks a bit too much like SARS. Sorrbucks looks terrible because we think it should be pronounced “sore” but it was more than likely an attempt to mimic the first syllable in the word “sorry.” Unless you're a Canadian, that “Sorr” should rhyme with “Star.” And in that “Sorry” link is a wonderfully implied apology, as in: “Sorry for ripping off your illustrious brand, but we couldn’t think of anything better!”

The variations on the Starbucks brand name in China are countless.  Here are a few:

"Star what? " (7/24/11)










STARBUGS (with a cockroach inside the green circle)







All of these may be easily gleaned from Google Images, and all except one are incorporated in the iconic green circular emblem, though naturally most do not feature the crowned mermaid with splayed tail.


  1. Ralph Hickok said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 4:28 pm

    The "sorr" in "sorry" should rhyme with "star"? I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone pronounce it that way. And I'm not Canadian; grew up in Wisconsin and have lived in Massachusetts since 1955, except for three years in Ohio.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 4:59 pm

    I'm from Ohio, and my "sorry" rhymes with "starry".

  3. Ed said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 5:03 pm

    I get all the variants except


    there must be a backstory to explain why.

  4. John Rohsenow said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 5:56 pm

    Ralph- "Sah-ry" to say it, but most Americans actually DO say "sah-ree",
    as opposed to UK/Canadian "saw-ree", altho' coming from Newton, Mass.
    (sic) in New England myself, I can see how you might not be as familiar
    with it.

  5. cameron said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 5:57 pm

    Does the northern cities shift apply to "star" but not to "sorry"?

  6. Ray said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 9:11 pm

    in china, it's considered a status symbol to get coffee from starbucks, so that might explain why these "knock offs" appear so often — to attract businesses/residents to an area…

  7. Shelagh said,

    July 8, 2018 @ 8:36 am

    John Rohsenow — I’m Canadian (Vancouver) and would pronounce “sah-ree” and “saw-ree” identically. I would pronounce sorry “sore-ee”.

  8. Jefferson DeMarco said,

    July 8, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

    In Ciudad del Este, Paraguay I saw a McDoland's, complete with golden arches.

  9. Jefferson DeMarco said,

    July 8, 2018 @ 1:30 pm


  10. dainichi said,

    July 8, 2018 @ 11:11 pm

    > I’m Canadian (Vancouver) and would pronounce “sah-ree” and “saw-ree” identically.

    Yes, Canadian English is cot-caught merged.

    > I would pronounce sorry “sore-ee”.

    The likely reason for why (non-merged) Americans might think of the Canadian pronunciation of "sorry" as "saw-ree" instead of "sore-ee" is that many Americans pronounce NORTH/FORCE as [oɹ], whereas [ɔɹ] is the common version in Canada.

    relevant links:ɒr-/_and_/ɔːr-/

  11. richardelguru said,

    July 9, 2018 @ 5:58 am

    How come 'Bartsucks' is missing??

  12. Philip Anderson said,

    July 9, 2018 @ 7:06 am

    Is “Canadian” in the original post a generalisation for any non-American English-speaker?

    I’m British, and my first vowel in sorry is short, and doesn’t rhyme with star, ah or saw/sore, so neither American nor Canadian it seems. Since B is not a vowel, my instinct is to pronounce Sorrbucks as sore bucks, but the OP may well be right in how its creater pronounced it.

  13. Chris Button said,

    July 10, 2018 @ 9:50 pm

    @ Philip Anderson

    Canadian and American English generally have long and lower [ɔ̞ːɹ] where British English may have long and higher [ɔ̝ːɹ] or short [ɒɹ].:However, American English generally keeps the four words "borrow", "sorry", "sorrow", and "tomorrow" distinct as [ɑːɹ] (reflecting British [ɒɹ]) rather than treating them as [ɔ̞ːɹ] as might be expected on the grounds of consistency and as is done in Canadian English.

  14. shawn gallagher said,

    July 12, 2018 @ 9:39 pm

    They should use "Stubb's" or "Flask's".

  15. Robert said,

    July 13, 2018 @ 2:34 am

    In short, BrEng has sore, star, and the first syllable of sorry all (phonemically) distinct from each other. This type of thing is why we use IPA. I think Mark Liberman has blogged about how British people and Americans can't understand each others' attempts to spell words phonetically before.

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