One of the most e-mailed stories at the NY Times this week is "100 things restaurant staffers should never do" by Bruce Buschel. This may seem a little glib, but as I was reading it, I was thinking: what a great exercise for language teachers! How many of these can you apply to your teaching situation?
The first one is obvious:
1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant (read: classroom) without a warm greeting.
Others have obvious analogies:
8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials (read: make corrections). Wait for the right moment.
Still others need some thought:
12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass. (don't spit on your fingers when handing out papers).
I don't agree with everything he has to say, but there are many good reminders in there.
15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”
Pretty good advice for teachers too.
45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests.
Or the students. Despite temptation.
50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.
For 'tip time' read ‘course feedback time’.
And never pop champagne corks.
Well, I'm less interested in what they should or shouldn't do than who they are ! For me, "staffers" would be the members of a restaurant-oriented recruitment agency : the people who provide staff for a restaurant. But I think the author of the article was not referring to such people, and was instead referring to the group that I would call "restaurant staff". So where did/does the "-ers" come from ?
The text of the post seems reasonable, but the subject heading does not: all of these behaviors are reasonable to address in an individual restaurant's style guide, and most of them apply to any sit-down restaurant, but a fair number, such as these:
> Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
> Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?”
really aren't part of the grammar or etiquette of standard restaurant service, though they're probably good advice for waiters and restaurants aiming for a formal or academic waiting style.
Have you looked up the meaning of staffer in a good dictionary?
In a language classroom, that's like the teacher saying, "all requests should employ past tense modals." This works on many levels.
Brett : of course I have looked up the meaning of "staffer" in a good dictionary. The OED (1933, full edition) gives only one meaning -- "a kind of peashooter".
The online OED gives:
"A member of a staff. a. Of a newspaper or journal: a staff writer. b. More widely, of a business or other organization."
It quotes: "1973 E. B. WHITE Let. 24 May (1976) 648 The story of The New Yorker has yet to be well told. Many staffers were indignant about parts of the Thurber book."
For what it's worth, I share Chaa006's sense that "staffers" sounds odd, though I'm not completely sure why. Introspecting — always dangerous — I think there are two factors:
1. For me "staffer" and "staff members" are singulatives, so to speak, for if you're talking about just a certain number of staffers, not if you're talking about all of them. I would have expected the headline to be "100 things restaurant staff should never do".
2. I don't know why, but for me "staffer" is mostly restricted to certain fields — newspaper staffers, campaign staffers, etc. — and not others. (Google seems to bear this out to some extent, in that well over 90% of hits for "restaurant staffer" and "restaurant staffers" seem to be references to this Times story.) For that matter, "staff" as a verb seems to work for the same fields; for me, people who "staff" a newspaper or a campaign are people who work for it, whereas — as Chaa006's comment implies — people who "staff" a restaurant are people who procure staff for it. (Google seems to bear this out as well; "staffing a _____" pulls up a roughly even mixture of the two senses when _____ is "newspaper" or a "campaign", but exclusively the latter when _____ is "restaurant".)
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