"Gimme a cup o' joe and an SOS."
"Gimme a cup o' joe and an SOS."

Olde-Tyme Diner Lingo

A recent NPR story on regional foods during the Great Depression and the uncompleted WPA "America Eats" project reference Mark Kurlansky's recently published Food of a Younger Land ("a marvelous goulash of gastronomical oddities and antiques"). Kurlansky has cataloged food-related slang by region, one of which is "New York Soda Luncheonette Slang and Jargon."

*An order for toasted English muffins was "Burn the British"; soup was "Bellywash"; and Strawberry Jell-O was (mystifyingly) called "Jack Benny in the Red." Depending on where you're from, you might feel similar unearned nostalgia about Minnesota Booya or Oregon Blue Ruin.*

We speculated that "Jack Benny in the Red" was a reference to the way Benny jiggled when he laughed. Then, of course, there was the notorious SOS (shit on a shingle, or chipped beef on toast) bane and boon to U.S. soldiers.

Got any other great old-timey food slang you'd like to share?


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