This morning I spotted a new ad circulating for Starbucks Blonde Roast, presumably created because many people find Starbucks coffee to be too dark. It read:
A Starbucks coffee for Canadians who don’t think they like Starbucks coffee. Starbucks Blonde Roast.
What I’d like to focus on here is the significance in the placement of the word “don’t”.
Consider the following situation: I’ve decided that I don’t like Starbucks coffee. Therefore, I (a Canadian, Cx) have a thought in my mind (Tx), and that thought is that I don’t like Starbucks coffee (~Lsx).
Hence – ∃x & Cx & Tx(~Lsx) – There exist Canadians who have in their mind that they do not like Starbucks coffee. (meaning 1)
However, examining the text of the ad more closely, we can draw a slightly different implication from it due to the semantic flexibility provided by the placement of “don’t”.
Consider: ∀xCx & ~(Tx Lsx) -> Lbx
For every Canadian who does not have the thought that they like Starbucks coffee, they will like the Blonde Roast (meaning 2)
Now, of course, in casual conversation, one might say “I don’t think I like X”, meaning “I don’t like X, but I’m open to being persuaded otherwise” (meaning 3). Both 2 and 3, valid interpretations of the ad text, share the common ground of portraying the consumer as an individual who can be convinced of the error of his ways.
Poking around a bit for internet usage of both phrases:
1) Ghits for I think I don’t like X- 12 million +
Unfortunately. one example of this phrase + Starbucks does not contain the same meaning as what could be gleaned from the ad (it’s just an assertion followed by an explanation, though it does of course give ~Lsx) :
I think I don’t like Starbucks because everything tastes so burnt
2) Ghits for I don’t think I like X- 18 million+ including 6 results for I don’t think I like Starbucks.
Still, Starbucks’ wording of the ad sneaks around the notion that there are people who just don’t like their coffee. Instead, by placing the “don’t” in front of “think”, i.e. saying “Canadians who don’t think they like Starbucks” and not “Canadians who think they don’t like Starbucks“, Starbucks is subtly suggesting that it’s not the case that people have negative thoughts about their coffee, but rather that they haven’t formed an opinion or simply haven’t discovered Starbucks Blonde Roast (b). What strengthens this is the addition of “think” to the mix because it suggests that taste is a matter of opinion and regulated by thought, a trick rather characteristic of neuro-linguistic programming.
I, for one, usually make coffee at home, and I don’t always go to Starbucks, but when I do, I order Blonde Roast.