In Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven, both the paperback and the Amazon Kindle eBook fail to note what George Orr had in his coffee.

pg. 114

He took Orr down to the food machines, and got him a roast beef sandwich, an egg and tomato sandwich, two apples, four chocolate bars, and two cups of coffee with.

I remember the next word as "everything", presumably from a library hardcover --- but the novel was originally serialized in Amazing Stories Magazine --- was the text there complete?


This is idiomatic (US/UK) English. He had his coffee with [milk and sugar].

"Do you wish your tea or coffee to be with or without sugar or with or without milk? How do you like your tea? With or without? Do you drink your coffee with or without?"

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002

The lady who owned my local greasy spoon used to ask people if they wanted "tea with or tea without". If the customer wanted anything special (e.g. two sugars) the onus was on them to be more specific.

  • 3
    This answer was much helped by the fact that I've actually heard the expression used in a real setting. The slang dictionary reference is merely a flourish.
    – Valorum
    Dec 23 '20 at 1:31
  • 2
    In Holland, you might buy a portion of chips/fries and be asked "with or without", where the implied word is "mayonnaise". I imagine there are a bunch of other examples in different places and contexts where something has an accompaniment so common as to be default, but not universal.
    – IMSoP
    Dec 23 '20 at 11:31
  • A comparative US usage might be the (Philadelphia regional) "whiz wit" or "prov witout" ("cheese whiz with onions" and "provolone, no onions", respectively) when ordering a cheesesteak.
    – Amory
    Dec 23 '20 at 14:04
  • 2
    Discussion about "down to" vs "up to", while interesting, is not directly relevant to the Q&A here and has been moved to chat.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 24 '20 at 12:47
  • 1
    I dislike the slang "dictionary" quote, Valo. It's just confusing. the quote does not* actually use the term "coffee with" as such. It's just a few long sentences that start with "coffee with milk" and "lead up to" saying "Do you drink your coffee with or without" The phrase in question is simply not used. It's a horrible confusing reference.
    – Fattie
    Dec 29 '20 at 22:59

The original publication in the May 1973 issue of Amazing Science Fiction has exactly that text. (The link should take you to the correct page with "coffee" highlighted.)

I expect that is simply an idiomatic English usage that is somewhat archaic now. I've heard it more often in a sentence like "I went to the store and John came with." The missing antecedent "me" is implied by the structure of the sentence. (There being nothing/nobody else for John to be with.)

In this case I read that sentence as "...got him a roast beef sandwich, an egg and tomato sandwich, two apples, four chocolate bars, and two cups of coffee [to go with all that]."

  • Of course in the first part of the novel they seemed to have coffee with brandy a fair bit, so if you're used to seeing that it could be even more confusing.
    – DavidW
    Dec 23 '20 at 0:58
  • 2
    I've heard this a lot from UK speakers: "I'm going for a walk; want to come with?", and is how I would have interpreted the LeGuin passage before seeing Valorum's answer. In the absence of "come" or "go" I'm now thinking "coffee with" means the usual add-ins.
    – CCTO
    Dec 23 '20 at 15:51
  • 4
    'Want to come with?' is very colloquial, I would interpret it be regarding with or without milk as specified by the people above.
    – Tom
    Dec 23 '20 at 18:07
  • 3
    This answer is simply completely wrong and the other answer is correct. I suggest deleting it.
    – Fattie
    Dec 24 '20 at 18:44
  • 4
    @Fattie - It has value because it confirms that the original wording is correct.
    – Valorum
    Dec 24 '20 at 22:10

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