cow juice

Diner lingo

Diner Lingo is a kind of verbal shorthand used by cooks and chefs in diners and diner-style restaurants, as well as Waffle Houses.


The origin of the lingo is unknown, but there is evidence suggesting it may have been used by African-American waiters as early as the 1870s and 1880s. Many of the terms used are lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and some are a bit racy or ribald, but are helpful mnemonic devices for short-order cooks and staff. Diner slang was most popular from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Today, diner lingo is not as prevalent as it was in the past because the rise of the fast food industry has in large part replaced the diner. Also, the use of computerized order systems has eliminated the need for wait staff to "call" orders. However, the use of restaurant diner lingo is still present in small towns as well as retro-style restaurants and is a colorful part of Americana.

Restaurant/Diner Lingo List

Adam & Eve on a raft: two poached eggs on toast

Adam's Ale: water

All hot: baked potato

Angel: sandwich man

Angels on horseback: oysters rolled in bacon on toast

B & B: bread and butter

B.L.T.: bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich

Baled hay: shredded wheat

Balloon juice/Belch water/Alka Seltzer: seltzer, soda water

Beef Stick: bone

Billiard: buttermilk

Birdseed: breakfast

Black and white: chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream

A blonde with sand: coffee with cream and sugar

Bloodhounds in the Hay: hot dogs and sauerkraut

Bloody: very rare

Blowout patches: pancakes

Blue-plate special: a dish of meat, potato, and vegetable served on a plate (usually blue) sectioned in three parts. This can also refer to the daily special.

Boiled leaves: Tea

Bow-wow/Bun pup/Tube steak/Groundhog: a hot dog

Bowl of red: a bowl of chili con carne, so called for its deep red color.

Break it and shake it: add egg to a drink

Breath: onion

Bridge/Bridge party: four of anything (from bridge the card game)

Bronx vanilla/Halitosis/Italian Garlic: garlic

Bubble Dancer: dishwasher

Bucket of cold mud: a bowl of chocolate ice cream

Bullets/Whistleberries/Saturday night: Baked beans, so called because of the supposed flatulence they cause.

Burn one: put a hamburger on the grill

Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it: hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion

Burn the British: toasted English muffin

C.J. Boston: cream cheese and jelly

Cackle fruit/Cackleberries: eggs

Canned cow: evaporated milk

Check the ice: look at the pretty girl who just came in

Checkerboard: Waffle

Chewed with Fine Breath: hamburger with onions

China: rice pudding

Chopper: a table knife

Clean up the kitchen: hash

Coney Island chicken/Coney Island bloodhound/Coney Island: a hot dog, so called because hot dogs were popularly associated with the stands on Coney Island.

Cow feed: a salad

Cow paste/Skid Grease/Axle grease: butter

Cowboy Western: a western omelette or sandwich

Creep: Draft beer

Crowd: three of anything (possibly from the saying "Two's company, three's a crowd")

Customer will take a chance: hash

Deadeye: poached egg

Dough well done with cow to cover: bread and butter

Dog and maggot: cracker and cheese

Dog biscuit: a cracker

Drag one through Georgia: cola with chocolate syrup, probably a reference to the fact that the headquarters of Coca-Cola is in Atlanta, Georgia, and dragging anything is likely to get it muddy, i.e., darker, which would be the same result as adding chocolate syrup. Carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola were originally served by pouring concentrated syrup into a glass and adding soda water, so they could be made to whatever strength the customer preferred.

Draw one/A cup of mud: a cup of coffee

Draw one in the Dark/Flowing Mississippi: a black coffee

Dusty Miller: chocolate pudding, sprinkled with powdered malt

Eighty-six: "Do not sell to that customer" or "The kitchen is out of the item ordered". "To remove an item from an order or from the menu". Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code defines the circumstances in which a bar patron should be refused alcohol or '86ed'. The Soup Kitchen Theory: during the depression of the 1930s, soup kitchens would often make just enough soup for 85 people. If you were next in line after number 85, you were '86ed'. The Eight Feet By Six Feet Theory: A coffin is usually eight feet long and is buried six feet under. Once in your coffin you've been 'eight by sixed', which shortens to '86ed'. Chumley's Theory: Many years ago, Chumley's Restaurant, at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, had a custom of throwing rowdy customers out the back door. During Prohibition, Chumley's was a speakeasy owned by Leland Stanford Chumley. When the cops were on the way, someone would shout "86," and they would all exit through the back door.

Eve with a lid on: apple pie, referring to the biblical Eve's tempting of Adam with an apple. The "lid" is the pie crust

Eve with a moldy lid: apple pie with a slice of cheese

Fifty-five: a glass of root beer

First lady: spareribs, a pun on Eve's being made from Adam's spare rib.

Fish eyes or Cat's eyes: tapioca pudding

Flop two: two fried eggs, over easy

Flop two, over easy: fried egg flipped over (carefully!) and the yolk is still very runny. That means the other side is cooked for a few seconds

Flop two, over medium: turning over a fried egg and the yolk begins to solidify

Flop two, over hard: fried egg, flipped and cooked until the yolk is solid all the way through

Fly cake or Roach cake: raisin cake or huckleberry pie

Foreign Entanglements: plate of spaghetti

Frenchman's delight: pea soup

Frog sticks: french fries

Fry two/Let the sun shine: 2 fried eggs with unbroken yolks

GAC: Grilled American cheese sandwich. This was also called "jack" (from the pronunciation of "GAC")

Gallery: booth

Gravel train: sugar bowl

Graveyard stew: milk toast; buttered toast, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and dropped into a bowl of warm milk

Hail: ice

Heart Attack on Rack: biscuits and gravy

Hemorrhage: tomato ketchup

Hen Fruit: Eggs, typically boiled

High and dry: a plain sandwich without butter, mayonnaise, or lettuce

Hockey puck: a hamburger, well done

Hold the hail: no ice

Honeymoon salad: lettuce alone

Hot top: hot chocolate

Hounds on an Island: franks and beans

Houseboat/Dagwood Special: a banana split made with ice cream and sliced bananas

Hug one/Squeeze one: a glass of orange juice

Ice the rice: rice pudding with ice cream

In the alley: served as a side dish

In the weeds: a waitress/cook that can't keep up with the tables. Refers back to chefs' military roots, where being in the weeds would cause your army to be slaughtered.

Irish turkey: corned beef and cabbage

Jack Benny: cheese with bacon (named after the famed comedian)

Java/Joe: coffee

Keep off the grass: no lettuce

Ladybug: fountain man

Let it walk/Go for a walk/On wheels/Give it shoes: an order to go, a takeaway order

Life preservers/Sinkers: doughnuts

Lighthouse: bottle of ketchup

Looseners: prunes, so called because of their supposed laxative effect.

Love Apples: tomatoes

Lumber: A toothpick

An M.D.: a Dr Pepper

Machine Oil: syrup

Magoo: custard pie

Maiden's delight: cherries, so called because "cherry" is a slang term for the maidenhead, hymen

Marry: bring items together for cleaning up, i.e. marry the salt and pepper.

Mayo: mayonnaise

Mike and Ike/The twins: salt and pepper shakers

Million on a platter: a plate of baked beans

Mississippi Mud/Yellow paint: mustard

Moo juice/Cow juice/Baby juice/Sweet Alice: milk

Mully/Bossy in a bowl: beef stew, so called because "Bossy" was a common name for a cow.

A Murphy: a potato, so called because of their association with the Irish diet of potatoes, Murphy being a common Irish name

Mystery in the alley: a side order of hash

Nervous pudding: gelatin

No cow: without milk

Noah's boy: a slice of ham (Ham was Noah's second son)

Noah's boy on bread: a ham sandwich

Noah's boy with Murphy carrying a wreath: ham and potatoes with cabbage

On a Rail fast, as in "Fries, on a rail!"

On the hoof: any kind of meat, cooked rare

One from the Alps: a Swiss cheese sandwich

One on the City: a glass of water

Paint a bow-wow red: a hot dog with ketchup

Paint it red: put ketchup on an item

Pair of drawers: two cups of coffee

Pigs in a blanket: a ham (sometimes a sausage) sandwich

Pin a rose on it: add onion to an order

Pittsburgh: something burning, toasted or charred, so called because of the smokestacks once evident in Pittsburgh, a coal-producing and steel-mill city. In meat cookery, this refers to a piece of meat charred on the outside while still red within.

Pope Benedict: an eggs benedict, but fit for a pope

Put a hat on it: add ice cream

Put out the lights and cry: an order of liver and onions, "Lights" is a term sometimes used for the edible, mainly internal organs of an animal

Quail: Hungarian goulash

Rabbit food: lettuce

Radar Range: microwave oven, from the Amana Radarange, whose parent company, Raytheon, was the first to manufacture and market the microwave oven.

Radio: tuna salad sandwich on toast (a pun on "tuna down," which sounds like "turn it down," as one would the radio knob)

Radio Sandwich: tuna fish sandwich

Raft: toast

Run it through the Garden: any sandwich, usually a hamburger, with Lettuce, Tomato and Onion added

Sea dust: Salt

Shake one in the hay: strawberry milkshake

Shingle with a shimmy and a shake: buttered toast with jam or jelly, hence the reference to 'shake'.

Shit on a shingle/S.O.S.: minced dried beef with gravy on toast, mostly because it was a reviled standard fare in army messes

Shivering Hay: strawberry gelatin

Shoot from the south/Atlanta special: Coca-Cola, probably a reference to the fact that the headquarters of Coca-Cola is in Atlanta, Georgia.

Shot out of the blue bottle: Bromo-Seltzer

Slab of moo--let him chew it: rare rump steak

Sleigh Ride Special: vanilla pudding

Smear: margarine

Soup jockey: waitress

Splash of red noise: a bowl of tomato soup

A spot with a twist: a cup of tea with lemon

Stack/Short stack: order of pancakes

A stack of Vermont: pancakes with maple syrup

Sun kiss/Oh jay (O.J.): orange juice

Sunny-side up: the eggs are fried without flipping them, so the yolk looks just like a sun on white background

Sweep the kitchen/Sweepings/Clean up the kitchen: a plate of hash

Throw it in the mud: add chocolate syrup

Twelve alive in a shell: a dozen raw oysters

Two cows, make them cry: Two hamburgers with onions

Vermont: maple syrup, because maple syrup comes primarily from the state of Vermont in the U.S.

Walk a cow through the garden: Hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion

Warts: Olives

Wax: American cheese

Well-dressed diner: codfish

Whiskey: rye bread, as in rye whiskey

Whiskey down: rye toast, the 'down' part probably comes from the action of pushing down the handle on the toaster

White Cow: vanilla milkshake

Windmill Cocktail/City juice/Dog soup: glass of water

Wreath: cabbage

Wreck ‘em: scrambled eggs

Yesterday, today, and forever: hash

Yum Yum/Sand: sugar

Zeppelin: sausage

Zeppelins in a fog: sausages and mashed potatoes

Pop Culture References

  • In an episode of The Odd Couple (TV series), sportswriter Oscar Madison uses diner lingo when he moonlights as a counter man at a greasy spoon. While dictating his column to his secretary, he confuses an order to go with a recap of a football game- telling his secretary, "The lone Dallas touchdown came when Bob Lilly intercepted a meatloaf, fruit salad and 2 scoops of chocolate traveling."
  • Ray Romano discusses diner lingo in his act when he talks about how it doesn't carry over into other professions. The bit can be heard on his Live from Carnegie Hall album.
  • In an episode of The Emperor's New School, the school cook is imprisoned for using diner slang that even she doesn't understand.
  • In an episode of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me aired on December 31, 2006, host Peter Sagal quizzes Charlie Pierce on "Diner Slang".
  • In the sci-fi series Stargate SG-1, some scenes incorporate diner lingo. Of note are scenes in the episodes "Threads" (from season eight) and the season ten episode, "Memento Mori". In "Threads", the ascended Ancient, Oma Desala, speaks both to Daniel Jackson and to the chef in diner lingo. In "Memento Mori", the waitress, Val (Vala Mal Doran) speaks to the owner, Sal, using diner lingo.
  • In an episode of the sitcom Friends, Phoebe Buffay uses diner lingo to convince Monica Geller she can work as a waitress.
  • Brenda Walsh, appearing as her alter-ego Laverne, uses diner lingo in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 while filling in for Brandon at the Peach Pit.
  • In an advertisement for the Food Network television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, host Guy Fieri places an order to a waitress using only diner lingo.
  • One episode of Higglytown Heroes on Playhouse Disney takes place in Uncle Lemmo's diner and quite fittingly makes use of diner lingo.
  • In a first season episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Bubble Bass orders his Krabby Patty using complicated diner lingo, which only Spongebob can understand.
  • In the Three Stooges short "Playing the Ponies," a customer orders two eggs on toast. Moe relays this to Curly by saying "Adam and Eve on a raft." The customer then asks for the eggs to be scrambled, which prompts Moe to tell Curly to "wreck 'em."
  • In the late 1980s there was a New York City band called Whysky Down.
  • In an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air the Banks family's orders are translated into diner lingo when the chef calls to the back of the kitchen.
  • In third season episode of I Love Lucy, "The Diner," Fred and Ethel relive their experiences when they worked at a diner while stranded in Indiana.
  • An episode of Reading Rainbow featured host LeVar Burton thrust into the role of short-order cook. Waitresses are calling orders to him using diner lino (known as "Diner-ese" in this episode), and LeVar Burton takes the orders literally (for example, he gets an order for "ice on rice," and he ends up putting ice cubes on top of a bowl of rice).
  • In Season 2, Episode 17 (Dead Uncles and Vegetables) of "Gilmore Girls", Lorelei attempts to speak only diner lingo while helping Luke at his diner.

See also

External links

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