Waitron
Posted: 28 August 2011 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I thought I’d never heard this till yesterday, but if I’d been paying attention I might have done, as a search of this site shows that Oecolampadius called it ‘truly reprehensible’ in 2007. MWO says it’s been in use since 1980 at least. Has it ever been common in actual use, anywhere?

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Posted: 28 August 2011 10:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve heard “waitron” as well as “paytron” since the early ‘80’s.  Leftpondia, left coast, right coast, and points between.

My understanding is that both terms were used in a conscious effort to appear gender-neutral.

I found this link interesting.

[ Edited: 28 August 2011 10:39 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 29 August 2011 01:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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So a paytron is a cashier, I take it?

Obvious problem is its homophony with patron: might amuse but using it in a workplace would be bound to cause confusion.

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Posted: 29 August 2011 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’d go with early ‘80s.  I heard the term used a bunch in Ithaca, NY at that time, often in the phrase waitron unit.  This was mostly from a good friend who was a waitron unit herself.  She was not the sort to use a phrase solely for its gender-neutrality.  There was always an aura of irony in her use of it.  This is not to say that others may not have used it primarily for its gender-neutrality, with or without the unit part.  I always detected a sort of jibe at the mindlessness or dehumanization of the job in her usage.

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Posted: 29 August 2011 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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OP Tipping - 29 August 2011 01:41 AM

So a paytron is a cashier, I take it?

Obvious problem is its homophony with patron: might amuse but using it in a workplace would be bound to cause confusion.

Not if it rhymes with waitron, at least not in the local dialect.  The -tron suffix is pronounced /trɑn/, as in electron, not /trʌn/, as in patron.

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Posted: 29 August 2011 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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“paytron” == “patron”

The exchange unit was “Units” and “unit” was also any one (count) of anything. 

I’m almost thinking origin of these terms had some connection with MTV, which launched in 1981.

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Posted: 29 August 2011 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m pretty sure I encountered it in graduate school, which would be the ‘80s.  I think that in addition to gender neutrality, it carried something of a comment on the depersonalizing way that the people in these jobs were often treated by their employers and customers, and sometimes also the indifferent, automaton-like way some wait-staffers performed their jobs.  (Obviously, there is plenty of opportunity for a vicious circle here.)

[ Edited: 29 August 2011 10:40 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 August 2011 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’ve only heard it used in seriousness 2-3 times (in Minneapolis once, otherwise I don’t remember where), and in these cases it was pronounced to rhyme with “patron” (with 1st-syllable stress ... not with 2nd syllable like “electron").

It is my casual impression that the word was invented to match “patron”, but I haven’t researched it carefully.

Of course it is inevitable that the word will often evoke the image of an automaton regardless.

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Posted: 30 August 2011 12:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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“paytron” == “patron”

The exchange unit was “Units” and “unit” was also any one (count) of anything.

I’m almost thinking origin of these terms had some connection with MTV, which launched in 1981.
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Not if it rhymes with waitron, at least not in the local dialect.  The -tron suffix is pronounced /trɑn/, as in electron, not /trʌn/, as in patron.
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I’m kind of confused now. I get that waitron is a gender neutral term for waitress/waiter, but paytron just means patron, which is already gender neutral? Homophonous but for the vowel of the _second_ syllable, even though it is first syllable whose spelling has changed? Ah well.

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Posted: 30 August 2011 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’ve never heard paytron in the wild, but I gathered from the discussion here that paytron means the person who handles the cash register.  And I always assumed that the depersonalizing aspect of waitron was at least as important as the gender-neutrality and that the gender-neutrality may well have been just a natural consequence of the depersonalizing.

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Posted: 30 August 2011 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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OP Tipping - 30 August 2011 12:33 AM


I’m kind of confused now. I get that waitron is a gender neutral term for waitress/waiter, but paytron just means patron, which is already gender neutral? Homophonous but for the vowel of the _second_ syllable, even though it is first syllable whose spelling has changed? Ah well.

Doesn’t “patron” derive from pater, i.e. father and have significant androcentric as well as “master-slave” connotation?

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Posted: 30 August 2011 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I would say those connotations have pretty much disappeared in modern, non-historical usage.

The sense of patron = “customer” is relatively recent. The OED doesn’t break out this sense from the wider “supporter” sense, and relying on dates within a particular sense is not always reliable (the OED editors do not choose citations based on date alone), it appears that this is a late-19th century development.

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