Back in the 1950s, eating out usually meant going to a diner. While the interior of diners may not have been fancy, the food was cooked fresh, served hot and tasted delicious. One of the best things about eating at a diner was hearing the waitress call out an order to the short order cook using shorthand slang. This left most diners scratching their heads and wondering if the order they had placed was the order they were going to get. These are just some of the terms used and their meanings.

• All hot: baked potato

• Angel: sandwich man

• Balloon juice, belch water or Alka Seltzer: soda water or seltzer

• Black and white: chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream

• Blond with sand: coffee with cream and sugar

• Bloodhounds in the hay: hot dogs and sauerkraut

• Blue-plate special: dish of meat, potatoes and vegetables served on a (usually blue) plate divided into three parts

• Breath: onion

• Bubble dancer: dishwasher

• Bucket of cold mud: bowl of chocolate ice cream

• Burn the British: toasted English muffin

• Cat’s eyes or fish eyes: tapioca

• China: rice pudding

• City juice or one on the city: water

• Cow feed: salad

• Cowboy: western omelet or sandwich

• Creep: beer

• Dog and maggot: cracker and cheese

• Dog’s body: pudding of pea soup and flour or hardtack

• Draw one, java, Joe or cup of mud: coffee

• Dusty miller: chocolate pudding sprinkled with powered malt

• Eve with a lid on it: apple pie

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

• Fifty-five: glass of root beer

• Foreign entanglements: plate of spaghetti

• Frenchman’s delight: pea soup

• Gentleman will take a chance: hash

• Hemorrhage: tomato ketchup

• Hockey puck: well-done hamburger

• Hounds on an island: franks and beans

• Houseboat: banana split made with sliced bananas and ice cream

• In the alley: served as a side dish

• Life preservers or sinkers: doughnuts

• Lumber: toothpick

• Mike and Ike or the twins: salt and pepper shakers

• Mississippi mud or yellow paint: mustard

• Moo juice, cow juice, baby or Sweet Alice: milk

• Noah’s boy: slice of ham

• On wheels or go for a walk: order to go

• Pin a rose on it: add onion

• Put a hat on it: add ice cream

• Radio: tuna salad sandwich on toast

• Raft: toast

• Sea dust: salt

• Shot from the South or Atlanta special: Coca Cola

• Skid grease or axle grease: butter

• Soup jockey: waitress

• Sweep the kitchen, sweepings or clean the kitchen: plate of hash

• Warts: olives

• Wax: American cheese

• Wreck ’em: scrambled eggs

• Zeppelin: sausage

The exact origins of diner lingo are unknown, but there are some who believe it originated with African-American waiters in the 1870s and ’80s. When fast food appeared on the scene, the use for calling out orders was eliminated.

Today, there are still some small-town diners where the lingo can be heard. The next time you’re traveling, stop by the local diner and see if they still use the lingo; you will be surprised by what you hear. By the way, Adam and Eve on a raft refers to two poached eggs on toast.


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