The Real Meaning Of Starbucks' Logo

The Starbucks mermaid logo, appearing on coffee cups all over the known world (and even in the occasional fictional world like Westeros, as found in the the notorious Game of Thrones gaffe), is meant, according to the company website, to "evok[e] coffee's allure and its seafaring tradition." In fact, the whole nautical motif is kind of a thing with Starbucks, since they did, in fact, adopt their name from that of a character in the Great American Whale Novel, Moby Dick.

At least, that's what Starbucks is admitting to be the meaning behind their lovely "siren," as they call her. On a more basic level, however, she embodies the basic advertising principle that pretty girls sell stuff. Or, according to the earlier, "boobier" version of the siren logo, "sex sells."

The controversies behind the Starbucks logo

Surprisingly, this seemingly innocuous mermaid has been pretty controversial in certain circles, those circles being that of a) conspiracy theorists and b) the overly pedantic (via Mental Floss). The former see the siren as a symbol of the Illuminati (what isn't?) or of a Zionist plot.

It's the latter, though, that really likes to nitpick and dig up the... well, not exactly dirt, since there's nothing particularly shameful attached to their findings. It's more that they're just stirring the dust with their scholarly criticism (via Got Medieval). Starbucks says their original logo was "derived from a twin-tailed siren in an old sixteenth-century Norse woodcut." It actually seems they misspoke — the term "Norse" properly refers to Viking-era Scandinavia, so a better term to use would have been "Nordic." 

Even more shocking — it seems that the original woodcut was probably German instead of Scandinavian. Probably the closest thing approaching a scandal in all this research is the revelation that the twin-tailed mermaid image is often associated with a character called Mélusine, who was more of an inland spring-maid than an actual mermaid per se (via Rupert Willoughby). But then again, Seattle itself is located between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, so perhaps a mermaid who's also a freshwater maid is the perfect symbol for the city's most famous coffee, after all.

Not to mention, the siren's cute, the coffee's popular worldwide, and the logo's not going anywhere — so just chill out and have a PSL already.