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Is "waitron" intended to be demeaning?

hsk Aug 4, 2008 08:48 AM

I've only recently heard it as a non-gender-specific term for waiter or waitress - around here we use the term "server". I'm not sure if it's intended that way but to me it sounds like a robot (not sure why, it just does), somewhat demeaning. However, I've seen it used it contexts where it doesn't seem to be intended that way.

Is it just me? I think "server" is fine as a gender-neutral term, as is "waiter" (I've noticed that the media nowadays use "actor" to mean both male and female).

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  1. jfood RE: hsk Aug 4, 2008 08:53 AM

    jfood prefers server to waitron. when jfood sees waitron he does feel a negative connotation, even if not intended by the poster.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jfood
      bubbles4me RE: jfood Aug 4, 2008 09:02 AM

      I think it sounds horribly insulting. It is a person serving you not some mindless, souless robot. What would be the positive image that waitron would describe? I heard a chef use the term once in front of a server friend of mine....was not pretty.

      1. re: jfood
        silence9 RE: jfood Aug 4, 2008 10:49 AM

        I've always considered that 'waitron' mirrors the concept of 'patron'. The former provides the service, the latter recieves the service. Is a restaurant 'patron' considered demeaning, then? Just askin', is all...

        1. re: silence9
          bubbles4me RE: silence9 Aug 4, 2008 11:03 AM

          Not at all, this is why I love Chowhound.....I've never heard it described that way, it does change my perspective. The chef that I was talking to did mean it in a robot way, (he was confronted by my server friend and not knowing he was a server said he meant mindless robot...ouch) but maybe that was just my introduction to the word...now I can see it another way.

      2. d
        dolores RE: hsk Aug 4, 2008 09:02 AM

        Noooo, hsk, seriously?

        Is it a combination of waiter-, waitress-, and automatron?

        How ridiculous.

        I agree on waiter, as with actor, but like server even better.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dolores
          hsk RE: dolores Aug 4, 2008 09:55 AM

          I thought so, too but because it's "automaton" I wasn't sure why I thought it sounded that way to me. I wasn't sure of the origin of the word, but I'm glad to see it sounds that way to others, too.

          When a chef says it I can see it might be in a context that's deliberately demeaning - eg "come on you waitrons take this food while it's still perfect", it was when I read it in normal contexts that I wondered if it was just me.

        2. Gio RE: hsk Aug 4, 2008 09:03 AM

          Gio feels that the term waitron is just plain silly. We say server or after an introduction by a our "server for the evening," Nathan or Cindy..... or insert name.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Gio
            bibi rose RE: Gio Aug 4, 2008 09:12 AM

            It's silly and pretentious. I assume it's meant to avoid an (actually nonexistent) dilemma between "waiter" and waitress." Instead you wind up calling a human being a neuter.

            Fooling around with Greek anbd Latin endings is a quick way to look dumb if you don't know what you're doing.

            1. re: bibi rose
              mrbozo RE: bibi rose Aug 4, 2008 12:05 PM

              <Instead you wind up calling a human being a neuter.>

              Wouldn't that be a neutron?

              There are males and there are females; there are waiters and waitresses. Simple. (And there are waitrons.)

              1. re: mrbozo
                Servorg RE: mrbozo Aug 16, 2008 07:28 AM

                Neutron - funny. I wonder if some front of house "waitron" came up with patron out of being treated in a "patronizing" manner?

          2. b
            Big Bunny RE: hsk Aug 4, 2008 09:54 AM

            I thought that "waitron" had come in and gone out of style very quickly about ten or fifteen years ago.


            1. PeterL RE: hsk Aug 4, 2008 09:55 AM

              I think it refers to waiters from chain restaurants who are trained to recite the same things and behave the same way, such as "Hi, my name is ..., I'll be your waiter today."

              Personally I prefer the term "Server Unit".

              3 Replies
              1. re: PeterL
                meatn3 RE: PeterL Aug 4, 2008 10:50 AM

                I'm a former server (among other positions) and we would use it tongue in cheek in reference to that exact sort of position. It is a challenge to give personal service in such a highly scripted environment. "I was waitroning at this place on the beach last year..." and every other server knows exactly what type place it is!
                I guess if the term was used out of context it could be construed differently. You wouldn't use it to describe a position filled by a professional at a place that allowed intelligent service.But a lot of places won't allow intelligence on the job...heard one chain restaurant manager explaining to an employee that that was what managers were for!

                1. re: meatn3
                  rockandroller1 RE: meatn3 Aug 4, 2008 11:27 AM

                  ditto meatn. It's not meant or regularly used as an insult where I'm from, but a tongue-in-cheek, usually self-deprecating reference.

                  1. re: rockandroller1
                    maria lorraine RE: rockandroller1 Aug 10, 2008 09:26 PM

                    That's exactly my understanding when the word has been used. It's always been used by the servers themselves to describe what they do. "I'm a waitron," they've said, and it has never meant anything derogatory. The servers themselves were having fun with the word.

              2. c
                chefbeth RE: hsk Aug 4, 2008 12:52 PM

                I suspect that it's one of those terms which is okay to be used by a server when referring to themselves or other servers, but is pejorative when used by anyone who is not one of them. As a kitchen person, I would no more use that term than I would say nasty things about some one else's mom.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chefbeth
                  meatn3 RE: chefbeth Aug 4, 2008 01:33 PM

                  Like anything, context, inflection and the relationship between the people involved can put a multitude of spins on the simplest exchange!

                2. marmite RE: hsk Aug 5, 2008 10:01 AM

                  I've used it, and never meant it with a negative connotation. I just think it's a cool word.

                  1. Petrichor RE: hsk Aug 5, 2008 10:33 AM

                    I first heard the term when I worked in a couple of the restaurants at Old Faith, Yellowstone Nat Pk in 1995-96. It was intended as a gender-neutral, politically correct term to refer to servers instead of waiters and waitresses. The plural is waitri.

                    The only person who used it as it was intended to be used was this one kid who was just a little off, a little slow--he liked to do everything EXACTLY as he was told.

                    Hosts/Hostesses were referred to as Hosti. Never heard a singular referred to as a hostron or hoston though....maybe because there were always 2 on shift at a time.

                    Nevertheless, it wasn't intended to be demeaning.....just another unfortunate victim of the PC language police.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Petrichor
                      Lizard RE: Petrichor Aug 5, 2008 11:59 AM

                      I heard it in the late 1980s if I recall correctly. Noone seemed to mind. It was an effort to get away from gender-specific language ('victim of PC language police' sounds kind of harsh-- especially as those seeking to reestablish the power imbalance have hardly ever made it to the point of establishing the totalitarian regime that this phrase conjures up). I suppose no one considered 'server' at the time, which is an excellent word. Although who knows why? Maybe not as used.

                      At no point did I ever hear it as a demeaning word. Nor do I think it's such a horrible one-- it's just that server is better and I think it will be a long while before 'waiter' catches on as gender neutral. After all, I don't think 'actor' has really made it either, although people are trying to make it happen.

                      1. re: mrbozo
                        Lizard RE: mrbozo Aug 6, 2008 01:59 AM

                        Has anyone threatened your 'right' to call the server whatever you wish? Even in the cases where people have expressed their preference in how they wish to be called, I don't think anyone has stripped you of your 'right' to say what you wish.

                        Waiter, waitress, server, waitron, whatever... it's just not necessarily demeaning.

                        As for calling in French, funny, have never screamed for a server from across the room. Usually a gesture, a glance, or a 'S'il vous plait', 'excusez moi' or something like that. I suppose that if called upon to address directly, it would be Monsieur ou Madame...But for now, everyone in the world is still older than I am :)

                        1. re: Lizard
                          mrbozo RE: Lizard Aug 6, 2008 12:29 PM

                          Just having some fun.

                    2. m
                      mojoeater RE: hsk Aug 5, 2008 11:22 PM

                      Heard it first waiting tables in the early 90's. Was told it was the PC term, rather than waiter/waitress. I still prefer the latter (or server).

                      When I was in college, I was among the first in my classes to write my papers with "he or she" rather than use the masculine by preference rule. but I hate that Hollywood now says "actor" rather than actor/actress. I'm a woman and like the fact that there are two genders in the world!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: mojoeater
                        Lizard RE: mojoeater Aug 6, 2008 02:00 AM

                        There are more than two genders if one looks to German, say. I'd also hazard a guess that some see more than two genders in the world. However, most likely there are two sexes....

                        1. re: Lizard
                          aelph RE: Lizard Aug 6, 2008 07:19 AM

                          Absolutely! Excellent reply. More genders, less sexes. And, I find "waitron" demeaning intellectually and socially. Such an idiotic term.

                          1. re: Lizard
                            Withnail42 RE: Lizard Aug 6, 2008 07:29 AM

                            Seems like a term someone created to be politically correct creating a need when there was no need for one.

                            Canada no longer has commercial fisherman the term these days is 'fishers'. And what about the few women who do the job? They think the terminology is stupid.

                            1. re: Withnail42
                              mrbozo RE: Withnail42 Aug 6, 2008 12:34 PM

                              We are an evolving species.

                              1. re: mrbozo
                                JungMann RE: mrbozo Aug 7, 2008 06:13 AM

                                Is evolution also phasing out genitalia? We speak English not Estonian or Tagalog with its lack of articles and gender. Not Latin or German with its neutral gender. Phasing out words and replacing them with newspeak to fit our new genderphobic paradigm is an exercise in foolishness. I don't need someone's political sensitivities on display when all I want is my waiter to get me a glass of water.

                            2. re: Lizard
                              mrbozo RE: Lizard Aug 6, 2008 12:37 PM

                              I think everyone should speak my mother tongue. "...in Estonian there are no articles, no gender (not even for pronouns)..." - http://www.transparent.com/languagepa...

                          2. John Manzo RE: hsk Aug 13, 2008 04:07 PM

                            "WAITER" ALREADY IS NON-GENDER SPECIFIC. There is no "masculine" in the English language. "Waiter" is deemed "masculine" because of sexism inherent in the culture as a way of distinguishing high- (male) status from low- (female) status by making generic terms "masculine." Same thing with master-mistress. "Master" is gender neutral but is TREATED as masculine because of male social status- only a man can have power so only a man can be a "master."

                            I call female servers "waiters" because that is what they are.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: John Manzo
                              jfood RE: John Manzo Aug 13, 2008 05:33 PM

                              Nah, jfood can't agree with that quantum leap master-john.

                              There is no masculine and feminine and neutral in english grammar compared to other languages, but to make the leap that there is not a waiter-waitress-server = male-female-neutral distinction is silly. Does that mean that in countries that have this grammatical distinction that there is a sexist useage of their grammatical difference? Is an ami so different from an amie in French from a caste system or does one merely refer to the difference of the sexes. Can't wait to hear the anology in countries where there are three grammatic categories.

                              Jfood has no issue with calling John the waiter or Paula the waitress over, one being a male and one being a female. Heck that's what they are. Adam was a male, Eve was a female (Does that mean that Eve is better because she got two more letters?). And if one is referring to a person who is waiting on tables without reference to their gender, then server is the appropriate word.

                              But he still thinks that waitron is an unkind term for the person working so hard to make a mal a relaxing event.

                              1. re: jfood
                                bibi rose RE: jfood Aug 13, 2008 10:35 PM

                                Does "doctor" or "dogcatcher" sound masculine to you too?

                                "Waiter" appears masculine to some people, because it happens that there is a word "waitress.' There is no "doctoress" or dogcatcheress." (Or should it be "doctress," etc.?) It is an accident of linguistic history that a few words like "waiter" and "actor" and so on have feminine forms. Most words in English do not.

                                1. re: bibi rose
                                  jfood RE: bibi rose Aug 14, 2008 04:27 AM

                                  Amen bibi rose. Or should jfood say awomen.

                                  1. re: jfood
                                    John Manzo RE: jfood Aug 15, 2008 12:20 PM

                                    ah, so you agree with me. Thanks bibi.

                                    jfood- "teacher" is not masculine either. There are thousands of other examples. Some very few English words are feminized but none are masculinized because the language don't work that way- got it? "Waiter" have become pragmatically male BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT MALE.

                                    1. re: John Manzo
                                      jfood RE: John Manzo Aug 15, 2008 12:50 PM


                                      If you feel better grasping at straws to make some rationalization that the English language can only add an "ess" to a "masculine" noun to create a feminine counterpart, be jfood's guest, but jfood feels totally otherwise. Likewise he could not imagine the looks he would receive if he asked for Waitress Tony or Waiter Donna to come to the table when s/he has a chance (and jfood apologizes for add the s/ to the masculine he to make it gender neutral).

                                      Personally jfood dislikes the entire gender-neutral crap that has invaded our language, society and the like. God created man and woman (sorry again for the extra "wo") . And it's this entire homogenious disallocation of genders that is problematic. Now because of people who refuse to embrace male and female (oops, now the "fe" causes an issue) as separate genders, people are forced to come up with stupid names like waitron. Heck there used to be miss and missus and now there is ms. jfood does not think that was a guy plot against femininity. BTW - jfood likes ms and mr

                                      Jfood has no problem with calling a male server a waiter, a female server a waitress and if he is speaking of the group of them of mixed genders, then they are servers.

                                      If you have an issue with the gender conversion to real life, that's fine, but jfood not only does not get to the same page, but he does not even take that book out of the library.

                                      Definitely an agreement to diagree on this one bro.

                                      1. re: jfood
                                        Sam Fujisaka RE: jfood Aug 15, 2008 07:20 PM

                                        My goodness, jfood, you used the word "crap"! But I feel the same way in terms of a new trend in Latin America. People used to be able to address an audience or group as "damas y caballeros" or "senores y senoras" or "Uds" or "todos". Now there is this thing that emphasizes gender: "Todos y todas"! Although I understand and agree with the underlying message of gender equality, it simply sounds atrocious in Spanish.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                          jfood RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 15, 2008 07:53 PM


                                          Correct, rare that jfood uses that language, but the idea that damas, senoras, lady, gal, woman, or waitress is only capable of working in a "truck stop" and their gender-counterparts work in higher end restaurants is so demaning and condenscending and gender insensitive that jfood feels it is even worse than the term waitron, which jfood thinks has one foot in the gutter and the other in the sewer.

                                          But jfood treats people as equals, heck he is surrounded by three fantastic ladies and me (the perfect female dog, had to throw that in). And jfood would NEVER demean Donna, his waitress, by asking one of her colleagues to send his "waiter" or "waitron" over.

                                2. re: jfood
                                  John Manzo RE: jfood Aug 15, 2008 12:24 PM

                                  There is no analogy where languages demand gender- eg "professeur/e." We don't do this in English. A "professor" is male OR female. A "waiter" is male OR female. "Waitress" is an anachronism and "waitresses" are demeaned while "waiters" or elevated: a "waitress" works at a truck stop; a "waiter" works at a proper restaurant, and don't tell me you don't know or understand this, please.

                                  1. re: John Manzo
                                    Lizard RE: John Manzo Aug 15, 2008 12:47 PM

                                    Thank you. It's a pleasure to read such sensible a post.

                                    1. re: John Manzo
                                      jfood RE: John Manzo Aug 15, 2008 01:03 PM

                                      jfood understands that it is not him that has created this waiter = "proper restaurant"; waitress = "truck stop" (your word not mine). That seems to be squarely on your lap bro.

                                      jfood has been served by wonderful females and males at wonderful restaurants and has also been served by both genders at less expensive restaurants.

                                      But you should read your post carefully, not only have deme(a)ned females by this broad brush that females can not work at a white glove establishment, but you have now broad brushed an entire demographic with you condenscending shoe kicking of truck stops.

                                      Can't get there on any of this, thank you.

                                      1. re: jfood
                                        GodfatherofLunch RE: jfood Aug 15, 2008 04:59 PM

                                        If only your argument didn't use the term "broad" it would have been a slam dunk.
                                        Maybe next time.

                                        1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                                          jfood RE: GodfatherofLunch Aug 15, 2008 06:55 PM

                                          don;t you hate it when you "miss" one?

                                  2. re: John Manzo
                                    maria lorraine RE: John Manzo Aug 15, 2008 08:14 PM

                                    Depending on context, the word “waitress” can be appropriate, offensive, accurate or inaccurate.

                                    Since words not only have a definition but also a connotation and nuanced usage, no single rule can possibly accommodate all agent-nouns, as these words are called.

                                    This entire discussion simply points out how the English language continually changes and morphs to reflect societal norms, political correctness, and legal definitions. Context becomes important.

                                    If I’m eating breakfast in a diner, the woman filling my coffee cup seems more like a waitress than a server to me, though she is both. The type of restaurant — a diner — supplies the context. Nothing demeaning is intended by calling this woman a waitress rather than a server.

                                    Most important to me is that I do not offend, even unwittingly. Some offense is taken by those called “waitress” — some find it disrespectful — and I don’t want to offend anyone who provides me with service.

                                    The era in which a word was used is part of its connotation. Just like “stewardess” connotes an era when flying and society were much different than today, “waitress” is somewhat attached to the era when that term was the norm, before the term “server.”

                                    Work environments provide a separate context. Many gender-neutral terms that “invaded” the language came from employers for ease of job description and in keeping with EOE regulations — like “flight attendant” instead of “steward” or “stewardess,” “server” instead of “waiter” or “waitress”, and “firefighter” instead of “fireman” and the awkward “firewoman.” Here, gender-neutral titles serve the goal of fairness, and help eliminate any “better than, worse-than” connotations with gender-specific titles.

                                    If I am dealing with any of these businesses, I use the same term they do. Several food and wine companies are my clients, so I use the word “server.” If I were to use the term “waitress,” I’d not only be inaccurate — that is not that person’s job title — but I’d also show I wasn’t attuned to that business’s terminology.

                                    Context is again key with a word like “actor,” which can be inclusive of both sexes (like the words doctor or teacher or dogcatcher), *or* refer to males only, as in the Academy Award for Best Actor.

                                    In some feminine nouns, the “-ess” ending seems gratuitous and unnecessary and falls out of favor: poetess and sculptress, for example. “Chairman” can refer to a man or woman, though “chairwoman” is also used. What sounds weird to my ear is “chairperson.”

                                    OK, my favorite part: Certain gender-specific terms are more pictorial and richer in connotation than gender-neutral terms and I bemoan their loss. Aviatrix seems to connote daring and adventurousness and images of Amelia Earhart whereas aviator and pilot do not. Dominatrix has a specific image attached to it, and that imagery is lost when a gender-neutral term is used. And BTW, the male analog of dominatrix is not dominator but dom. No single English usage rule for agent-nouns could cover all these subtle variations.

                                    Finally, “waitron”:
                                    I first heard the word used by servers themselves at least 20 years ago -- but the word was a hybrid of the words "waiter" and "-tron" -- as in the automated, repetitive, sometimes robotic, nature of the job. "Tron" had jumped into American slang a few years earlier still, partly as a result of the movie with that title. Nothing to do with gender. But the term also happens to be gender-neutral.

                                    Merriam-Webster here says much the same, saying the word refers to "the blend of waiter or waitress and -tron (suggesting the machinelike impersonality of such work.":

                                    I've never heard the term “waitron” used by anyone other than servers referring to themselves. It’s an insider term. The use of the word by diners does seem to me a bit disrespectful, as "waitress" can be also, and again, I don’t wish to offend the person working hard to provide me with service.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                      jfood RE: maria lorraine Aug 15, 2008 08:38 PM


                                      Very nicely researched and reported. Major clap from jfood.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                        Midlife RE: maria lorraine Aug 21, 2008 04:18 PM

                                        Just looked up the same Merriam-Webster definition (before seeing your post) and find the reference "suggesting the machinelike impersonality of such work" to be more than enough to make use of the term unacceptable. I had really never heard the term 'waitron' until reading this topic and am glad that I hadn't as it is rather irritating........ and I've never done that type of work. If I had, I think I'd find it rude and demeaning.

                                        When I am eating in a restaurant I would like to be 'served', not 'waited on' by a machine-like automaton (or neutron?). No doubt 'server' came from a desire to neutralize the gender of the position (as in 'flight attendant') and it works just fine for me.

                                    2. GodfatherofLunch RE: hsk Aug 13, 2008 05:10 PM

                                      I myself use server, however a well tipped waitron is much happier than a stiffed waiter or waitress. It seems gender neutral and rather lacking in personality. Maybe that is not so bad. Who came up with the server introducing them selfs to the table? I have professional respect for the servers but I'm not in the restaurant to make new friends. I don't care that you are Boris or Scarlet. I do like the modern element. Oh Waitron there is a fly in my soup just sounds cool to me.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: GodfatherofLunch
                                        morwen RE: GodfatherofLunch Aug 16, 2008 08:19 AM

                                        Call me weird but I like to know the name of the person serving me. If he/she is on the fly it's easier to catch his/her attention by name than the incredibly grating and (to me) rude "WAITER/ESS!" or "SERVER!" or "EXCUSE ME!" or even worse "HEY!" I'm not making friends with them but using their names recognizes that these are persons serving me and, I hope, conveys in some small way that I appreciate their service. Plus, if I've had really fine service, when I return to that restaurant or make a reservation I'll often ask if "Justin" or "Beth" is working and if it's possible to be seated at one of their tables.

                                        I worked restaurants in the '70s and '80s when "waitron" came into use and at that time it was a mostly inside thing used amongst staff and generally tongue-in-cheek. But even then "waitstaff" (plural) and "server" (individual), "front of house" (all who worked the dining room/floor) were the terms we used during staff meetings, event planning and catering.

                                        1. re: morwen
                                          GodfatherofLunch RE: morwen Aug 16, 2008 08:43 AM

                                          Hi Weird,
                                          Different strokes, I honestly could not care less what my servers name is. I always treat servers and all other humans with courtesy and respect. To show that I appreciate the service I leave a very nice tip. If they really impress me to the extent that I want to request that I be seated in their station next time I will ask for there name.

                                        2. re: GodfatherofLunch
                                          greygarious RE: GodfatherofLunch Aug 23, 2008 03:11 PM

                                          On my first visit to an upscale restaurant recently, we had just been seated when a young man arrived to fill the water glass, introducing himself as "Jose, your ----waiter". I thought there was some prefix to "waiter" but wasn't sure until a few moments later when a different fellow introduced HIMself as the waiter. Then it dawned on me that the first fellow had said "bus-waiter" - a new one on me. I can definitely see busboy as on the demeaning side, and since "bus-server" would be too awkward to pronounce, that cements "waiter" as the term, in this particular place at any rate. This thread is the first time I've heard that "waitress" is considered iffy, and inappropriate for other than casual establishments. Live and learn. I, by the way, worked as a mail carrier - the term that slid inconspicuously into the place of "mailman" once female Letter Carriers (that's the official USPS term, inaccurate as it is, since we deliver lots of other mailpieces). When I started in the '80's there were very few of us - customers referred to me as mail lady, mailgirl, mailwoman, femailman, and the U.S. FeMail. I didn't take any of it personally!

                                        3. Chew on That RE: hsk Aug 14, 2008 08:43 AM

                                          i've never even heard the term waitron, but yea, if i heard it, i wouldn't consider it positive.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Chew on That
                                            Sooeygun RE: Chew on That Aug 20, 2008 02:01 PM

                                            I agree that it doesn't sound positive. It sounds like the kind of word the kitchen would use to talk about the front of the house - sort of a combo of Moron and Waiter. Just seems like a word some of the chefs I have worked under would use, and not in a nice way.

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