I’ve always loved diner lingo.

“Adam and Eve on a log, wreck ’em!”

“Burn one, drag it through the garden, pin a rose on it and send it to Wisconsin!”

Mickey’s Dining Car, Saint Paul, MN. Image from mickeysdiningcar.com

“The gentleman will take a chance!”

“Mouse trap with red paint in the alley, c-board it!”

“First ladies, paint ’em red!”

“Black and blue, firehouse it and make it cry!”

“Frog sticks in the alley!”

“One on the city, with hail!”

“Radio on a cable car, peel it off the wall, and a splash out of the garden!”

“Drown the kids on a raft!”

“Jack Benny with a hot blonde in the sand!”

One of the few pure American styles of jargon. My great aunt ran a small diner in East Central Minnesota. My grandma (her sister) helped her run it, and I worked there several summers busing tables and mopping floors. All the cooks and waitresses used the diner lingo.

I agree with a poster on another site (long since forgotten) who said the point behind diner lingo was NOT efficiency or creating mnemonic devices. What’s efficient about using six or seven syllables to refer to “ketchup”? No, communities always define themselves by their language. Helps the insiders recognize one another, and keeps the outsiders out. Plus it was cool: my cousins and I would recite the slang terms around our homes. (Once when the milk carton was empty at breakfast, our uncle Jim noted that we had “killed the cow.” We thought it was the greatest phrase ever. Our moms grew to hate it.) Plus it allowed the cooks and waitresses to “dish” on customers (ha! see what I did there?) without being detected.

Wikipedia has a great glossary. These are a few of my favorites, with comments:

Adam and Eve on a raft and wreck ’em: two scrambled eggs on toast. The same, on a log: with sausage.

Axle grease, cow paste, skid grease: butter.

Baled hay: shredded wheat.

Black and blue: a steak cooked quickly over very high heat so that it is seared  on the outside and rare on the inside.

Blowout patches: pancakes.

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

Cow feed: a salad.

Customer (or the gentleman) will take a chance: hash.

Don’t cry over it: omit the onions.

Drag one through Wisconsin: serve with cheese. Also Tiptoe through Wisconsin: add shredded cheese.

Drown the kids: boiled eggs.

Eve with a lid on: apple pie. The same, with a moldy lid: serve with cheese.

Firehouse it: add chili sauce to an item.

First lady: spare ribs (Eve! Get it?).

Flop two, over easy: fried eggs, flipped over carefully, with the yolks very runny. Over medium: with the yolks beginning to solidify. Over hard: with the yolks solid all the way through.

Frog sticks: french fries.

Fry two, let the sun shine: two eggs fried on one side, unflipped with unbroken yolks which are generally runny.

Hail: ice.

Honeymoon salad: lettuce alone. (One of my uncle Bob’s favorite lines.)

Hope: oatmeal. (I would love to know the derivation of this one.)

Hot blonde in the sand: coffee with cream and sugar.

In the alley: served as a side dish.

Jack Benny: cheese with bacon. (I would love to know the derivation of this one too.)

Keep off the grass: no lettuce.

Looseners: prunes (duh).

Million on a platter: a plate of baked beans.

Mother and child reunion: chicken and egg sandwich (reportedly where Paul Simon got the idea for his song).

Mouse trap: grilled cheese sandwich.

Nervous pudding: gelatin.

One on the city: a glass of water.

Paint it red: put ketchup on an item.

Peel it off the wall: add a leaf of lettuce.

Put out the lights and cry: an order of liver and onions.

Radio: tuna fish (duh).

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

Two cows, make them cry: Two hamburgers with onions.

Yum Yum or Sand: sugar.

Jitterbuzz has a list that adds some not found on Wikipedia.

Burn the British: English muffin.

C-board: An item prepared for takeout (in cardboard). Also: it’s going for a walk; ninety-seven; put legs on it.

Cable car: Open-faced sandwich.

Dough well done with cow to cover: Buttered toast.

Henberries: Eggs.

Hounds on an island: Frankfurters and beans.

Life preservers or sinkers: Doughnuts.

Paint a bow-wow red: Hot dog with ketchup.

Pigs: bacon.

Red paint/yellow paint: Ketchup/mustard.

Side of shoes: Order of shoestring potatoes.

Splash out of the garden: Bowl of vegetable soup.

Still mooing: meat served rare. Also: with the horns still on; make it moo.

Wrecked and crying: Scrambled eggs with onions.

Yellow blanket on a dead cow: cheeseburger.

Zeppelins in a fog: Sausages in mashed potatoes.

Are there regional ones that aren’t in these lists? Or did you ever work in a diner and come up with your own? Spill.

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One Comment on “I’ve always loved diner lingo.”

  1. I always wondered what these meant. I was watching the movie Stuck on You the other day and a waitress reeled off a long list of lingo and I didn’t understand any of it. I’d like to add all of these to my vernacular.


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