I noticed, in an article recounting the very robust and competent response of a young lady to inappropriate conduct, that she was described as a ‘server’.
I have never seen this use of the word before and the OED seems to class it as ‘rare’ in the general sense of serving and has no modern references when used in this specific of table-waiting.
The Ngram of ‘restaurant server’ (the only disambiguation I could think of from the computer use of the word) shows rising usage in American English from the 1980s and escalating usage in the 21st century.
But the Ngram has zero return for BrE and I never remember hearing or reading of this context previously.
I assume it is a genderless way of referring to waitresses and waiters but it is closely related to the word ‘servant’ which I would have assumed to be a word that not everyone would wish to be described by.
Is the usage appearing in BrE at all ?
And is the word acceptable to use in this context ?
EDIT: The previous question did not deal with BrE usage which was my question.
All the sources cited below suggest that the term “server” meaning waiter/waitress is a typical AmE usage which may have spread because of its genderless connotation.
the American Heritage Dict. gives as the first definition of server:
a. One who serves food and drink.
From “resources.workable.com” Restaurant Server job description:
We are looking for a competent Restaurant Server to take orders and deliver them to our guests maintaining and enhancing the quality of our customer service. You will work in close collaboration with colleagues and follow established health and safety standards. The goal is to accelerate our business development by providing customers with a memorable experience
As for usage, the following American site culinarylore.com suggests that:
Unless you’ve been under a rock for a while, you know that you are no longer supposed to call a female waiter a waitress. However, at the same time, hardly anyone refers to a female server as a waiter, and most restaurants are using the term server for both male and female employees: “Hi, I’m Shelley, and I’ll be your server today.”
Why Don’t We Say Waitress Anymore?
Waitress has went the way of many gender biased terms in English that are seen as sexist. There have always been lots of biased terms in English, and not only sexist ones, racist ones as well.
The word server was widely adapted in restaurants, for the reasons stated above, perhaps out of confusion or perhaps because people couldn’t shake the association of waiter with male.