Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Diner Lingo by Guest Author Camille Minichino

Please welcome guest author and good buddy, Camille Minichino. Camille authors several cozy mystery series under a variety of pseudonyms. Mousse and Murder is the first book in her most recent series, the Alaskan Diner Mysteries, written under the pen name of Elizabeth Logan. Camille notes that her idea of a gourmet dinner is a grilled cheese, fries, and a shake. (That’s a Jack Benny, frog sticks, and one in the hay.)
For more information, check out her website at  

Who invented the battery?

A middle school science student would probably raise her hand and answer, “Volta!” maybe laughing at the confluence of the name and the unit of electromotive force. And for all practical purposes, she would be correct. It’s too cumbersome to go back to the Parthian Empire of 2000 years ago, and what’s known as the Baghdad battery. It’s beyond our grasp to name all the giants of engineering, ancient and modern, who brought us to where we are now, so we summarize and attribute the battery to Volta.

 I run up against this wall whenever I try to find the beginning—of a battery, of a revolution, even of something as large and concrete as a diner.

 The best I can do is go back to 1872 and credit Walter Scott, a horse-drawn wagon in Providence, Rhode Island, and a menu designed to feed night owls, whether workers finishing the late shift, or revelers looking for an off-hours meal.

The wagon evolved into “rolling restaurants,” with a few seats added inside, and then dining cars and finally, around 1924, permanently located “diners,” most maintaining the train-car look.

With a new style of restaurant came a new set of phrases, or “diner lingo,” the way a short order cook might communicate with her staff. Some call it shorthand, but diner lingo is often longer than the regular term for the menu item.

“A side of bad breath,” for example is not as succinct as “with onions.” And “a stack of Vermont” is longer than “pancakes.”

My guess: it’s more for adding fun to a job. Who doesn’t want to do that?

Probably among the best known call-outs are “Adam and Eve on a raft” (two eggs on toast) and “Battle Creek in a bowl” (corn flakes).

Other favorites of mine are:
  • “Burn the British” (toast an English muffin)
  •  “Cowboy” (western omelet)
  • “Cops and robbers” (coffee and donuts)
  • “In the alley” (on the side)
  • “Butcher’s revenge” (meatloaf)

A few phrases have been assimilated into our language, no longer recognized as diner-related, like sunny side up, BLT, OJ, and 86 it.

Post your favorites. But whatever you do, don’t be a camper*!

*One who stays at the table or counter for a long time, depriving the server of new tips.


Liz V said...

Can't add to the slang, but in recognition on Barry Levinson's Diner, a list of places where you'll hear the Bawlmore variety

Camille Minichino said...

What a great link, Liz! Cinnamon apple pie? Rice pudding? These and many more from these diner menus are headed for book 3 of my new series. I'd thank you, but I'm stuck at home with whole wheat toast and craving those stuffed grape leaves

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks, Ann, for giving me a spot on your brilliant Wednesday blogs!

Liz V. said...

My apologies. It is cruel to spotlight food at this time, at diners still closed.

Ann Parker said...

Heyhey, Camille! Thank you for doing a guest post here! All the "in talk" is such fun!

And Liz: It is a little cruel to give us that link.... ;-) I was reading along and stopped dead (so to speak) at: " turkey club with bacon, a pile of chips, and a slice of pickle." Now I can't get it out of my mind. The salad I have planned for late lunch/early dinner will just look soooo sad compared to the visions of diner fare dancing through my mind...
I must say that a really good burger and fries is hard to beat, IMO.

Carole Price said...

I'm still licking my lips from the BLT we had for dinner last night. YUM

C. T. Collier said...

This post made me smile! Hope our restaurants will open soon, as I miss poached eggs over home fries at my favorite diner! I’ll bet there’s diner lingo for that order, but I can’t guess. :-)

Camille Minichino said...

Hi C. T. -- 2 eggs are commonly called Adam and Eve but I find nothing for home fries. "Hash" is "sweep the kitchen" however!

Carole -- lucky you! (smile!)

Ann Parker said...

Oh wow, now I can't stop thinking about BLTs! ;-)
No bacon here. No tomatoes either. A tuna sandwich will have to do! (Is there lingo for "tuna sandwich," Camille?)

Ann Parker said...

OMG, found it! Tuna salad on toast = RADIO of all the strange things! Here's a link to an article about more diner slang:

Liz V. said...

Home fries is a regional term.

Ann Parker said...

Thanks for the link, Liz! A Northeast term... interesting!