A recent Herald Democrat article "A look through area’s past” recently rang a
bell about words I long-since had forgotten. Johnny McCraw, who for many years
owned eateries like McCraw’s Cafeteria, The White Pig and the Eat Well in
Denison (some with his brother, Carl), and McCraw’s Restaurant in Sherman before
going into the turkey business off East Texas Street Road, was quoted in the
“Fifty Years Ago” segment of the column.
The writer quoted Johnny as saying “among the many changes of the business, café
“slanguage” is definitely going out.” Keep in mind that this was 1956. He said
he didn’t know why or where it started, but that it wasn’t around much anymore.
He even gave some samples of the phrases that explained briefly what “slanguage”
was. “A “slide-on” was a chicken salad sandwich, and “ palm beach ” was a
pimento cheese sandwich, he told a reporter. When a waiter “pushed-one,” he
wanted a Coke and “pushing a wild shot” meant a cherry Coke.
Having grown up in a drug store with a soda fountain, I remember hearing the
“Coke” slang occasionally when a new fountain employee would be “showing off.”
At least we thought he/she was showing off with that kind of language.
Just for fun I tried to look “slanguage” up on the Web and you’d be surprised
what that brought up. I’ll tell you this much – nothing to do with what I was
Finally, after trying all sorts of combinations such as “restaurant slang”,
slanguage, fast food restaurant talk, and several other combinations, I found a
site called “Diner Talk from the Swing Era.”
I did learn on some of the sites that many fast food restaurants of 50 or more
years ago were known as “hash houses” because many of their specials evolved
from roast beef which was chopped up into hash and served over everything from
potatoes to noodles or toast. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
It seems that some industrious person putting together a “Diner Talk” dictionary
and is asking for entries to include. He is calling it “A Guide to the Coded
Communication between Short-Order Cooks and Waiters.”
In the meantime he shared the first cut of the dictionary as submitted by
numerous people. Probably each region of the country had its own slanguage and
some of these may be remembered in Texas and others may have immigrated from
If you wanted two poached eggs on toast, the waiter might order “Adam and Eve on
a Raft.” If you wanted those eggs scrambled, he would add “Wreck ’em”. Instead
of “on a raft”, they would be “on a log” if you wanted link sausages.
“Adam’s Ale” was water. I seem to remember hearing plain old “H2O” for water.
It’s funny how some of the slang originated, but the coined words of most do
make sense when you think about them.
An “All Hot” was a baked potato; “Axle Grease” was butter; “Baled Hay” was
shredded wheat and “Balloon Juice” was seltzer water. If you wanted bread and
butter the order was for “B and B” and French toast was “Biddy Board.”
“Bird” was chicken and through the years it’s been lots of other things we won’t
discuss here. A “Black and White” was a chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream
and a “Black Cow” was chocolate milk or chocolate soda with chocolate ice cream.
Pancakes were “Blowout Patches” and waffles were “Checkerboards”. Chile was and
still is “a Bowl of Red”. “Bossy in a Bowl” was beef stew and “Bun Pup” was a
Coffee has been called a lot of things. “Coffee Regular” was coffee with a cream
and two sugars, but “Cowboy coffee” was made with all chicory. “Frosty Joe” was
ice coffee and “Hi-test” was with caffeine. There was and occasionally still is
“Java and Joe,” but a “Joe O’Malley” was an Irish coffee that sometimes was
served in hotels and diners back them. If you wanted half-and-half with your Joe
is was “50/50 Joe.”
“Cowboy with Spurs” was a Western omelet with French fries. “Cow Paste” was
butter. “Cremate it” meant toast the bread and a “Deadeye” was a poached egg.
Just imagine looking at a poached egg.
“A Double Black Cow” was a double thick shake and you also could get a “triple
cow”. “Draw One through Georgia ” was a Pepsi with chocolate syrup and the order
to “Drag it through the garden” meant to put everything on it such as a burger.
“Dough Well Done with Cow to Cover” was buttered toast. “Eve with a Moldy Lid”
was apple pie with a slice of cheese and “First Ladies” was Ribs.
“Eighty-six” meant to stop taking orders for that particular item because it was
all sold out. Seems like that term still hangs around some today, but not
particularly in a restaurant.
Eggs can be prepared so many ways that there is no end to terms given to the
various egg orders. “Flop Two” was two fried eggs, over easy and “Fry Two, Let
the Sun Shine” was fry to eggs with yolks unbroken. “Drop two” was two poached
eggs. “Hatching it” was a fried egg nestled in toasted bread which had a hole
cut in the center of it. Scrambled eggs might be “Scrape two.”
“Hold the grass” meant leave the lettuce off a sandwich. A “Houseboat” was a
banana split and “Hug One” was fresh squeezed orange juice. Doughnuts were “Life
Preservers” and a bottle of ketchup was a “lighthouse.” “Mama on a raft” was
marmalade on toast and “Melting Snow” was melted Swiss cheese on an item.
“Moo juice” was and occasionally still is milk. Jello was “Nervous Pudding” and
a Swiss cheese sandwich was “One from the Alps .”
Pita bread that we see today had a totally different meaning in the 50s. a PITA
was a difficult customer. The first two letters were for “pain in.” and I’ll let
you figure out what the last two letters stood for.
To “Put a hat on it” was to add ice cream and to “Pull” meant to dispense a soft
drink. If you “put legs on it” you prepared the food for take-out or “to go” as
we say today. “Rabbit Food” was and always will be lettuce. “Side arms” was salt
and pepper although pepper might also be called “Sneeze.”
There are many more slang terms that were used, but you get the idea. Imagine
trying to learn the diner language and keep things straight. No doubt a list of
terms was available to keep everyone on the same page. If not, there sure could
have been some strange meals served. - Donna Hunt
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