Café Diem: what’s in a name?

I titled my blog “Café Diem coffee philosophy” with great deliberation. Here’s a little explanation of the terms.

First, “Café Diem” is obviously a pun/play on the famous phrase carpe diem, which is supposedly Latin for “seize the day.” Actually, carpe is from the Latin verb carpō, which, according to Lewis’ An Elementary Latin Dictionary means “pick, pluck, cull, crop, or gather,” and a bunch of other harvest-related metaphors. It’s kind of like, “gather as much of the day as you can,” or, “get as much out of today as you can.” A Spanish-speaking janitor once told me, “Hay que aprovecharse del día.” That about says it.

Anyway, carpe diem comes from Horace (ode I.xi), one of my favorite Latin poets (mostly because he’s easy to translate). The key line is, “Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!” It’s rather Epicurean, if you think about it, and not quite synonymous with Jesus’ words, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matthew 6). I’m working on a novella that touches on this incongruity; stay tuned for further developments. But the phrase works, in a sense, as a good motto for some people.

The reference to carpe diem is supposed to make you think about “taking enough time to enjoy the coffee,” or “savoring the moment” or something like that, while at the same time suggesting the literal translation “coffee of the day.” Of course, café doesn’t mean “coffee” in Latin (at least not classical Latin), and even if it did, diem doesn’t really mean “of the day.” But that’s OK, too. I don’t mind the inconsistency, and neither do the people who have decided to name their coffee shops Café Diem.

Which brings me to the topic of originality. Back in 2001, when I first started work on the aforementioned novella, I thought I was being terribly clever when I invented the name Café Diem for the coffee shop at which the narrator stops in the course of his allegorical road trip. Back then, search engines weren’t what they are now, and I wasn’t the computer-savvy techno-whiz that I’ve become, and so a cursory inspection of the internet revealed that I had indeed thought of something original on my own. Imagine my chagrin when I found that other people have simultaneously come up with my idea! But for the record, I thought of Café Diem before I heard it from anywhere else, and even if I didn’t come up with it first, I at least did it independently. So there.

Almost every book I’ve read in the past three years had a subtitle, and I thought my blog should be no different. I was playing a silly truth-or-dare-style game a while ago and the question was, “If you could have any job title printed on your business card, what would it be?” I picked coffee philosopher. I think it has as nice ring to it, and it sort of stuck. So this blog won’t always talk about coffee (although sometimes it will). It won’t always be philosophical (although occasionally it might be). And every once in a while it might have some coffee-related philosophical thoughts (although usually I’ll save those for my column in Coffee Magazine). Nevertheless, since I can’t think without coffee, the drivel coming out of this blog is probably aptly subtitled “coffee philosophy.” Consider it giving credit where credit is due.

So, there you have it. A wordy and overbearing explanation of the title “Café Diem coffee philosophy.” Someday I hope to open my own coffee shop and name it Café Diem. I hope no one will have stolen my name by then, at least in Dayton.

Then I’ll finally have time to stop and smell the beans.

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