The 11 Best Diner Lingo Phrases and How to Use Them

Our favorite diner lingo

When you think of a breakfast diner, you can’t help but think of the greasy spoons of yesteryear and the colorful and hilarious diner lingo used by the staff that went along with it. Originally used as mnemonic devices (shorthand) to help waiters and cooks get your meal out lickety-split, diner lingo is a language of its own. But even if you never get the basics down, you’ll appreciate the vivid creativity behind the diner lingo of a bygone era.

Now, while we may not use the following phrases every day at Kate’s Kitchen, we do have some favorites that we’ve heard over the years. We’ve laid them out here with their translations and how you can use them, too!

1. "Dirty water"

Translation: Coffee

Synonyms: belly warmer, 50-50 joe, cup of mud, flowing Mississippi, java, draw one

2. "Make it moo"

Translation: Add milk to coffee

Synonyms: Blonde, blonde and sweet, blonde with sand, hot blond in the sand

3. "Yum-yum"

Translation: Sugar

Synonyms: Sand

Put It Together

Coffee & Cream

“Table 7 needs a dirty water, make it moo and hold the yum-yum!”

4. "Cluck and grunt"

Translation: Eggs and bacon

Synonyms: Berries, arches, pigs, two dots and a dash

5. "Stack"

Translation: Pancakes

Synonyms: Blowout patches, Jayne Mansfield, dry stack, short stack

6. "Motor oil"

Translation: Syrup

Synonyms: Vermont, stack of Vermont

7. "Axle grease"

Translation: Butter

Synonyms: Smear, cow paste, cow to cover, skid grease

Put It Together

Stack with Motor Oil and Axle Grease

The lady wants a stack, add motor oil and axle grease, side of cluck and grunt!

8. "Walk a cow through the garden"

Translation: Burger with lettuce, tomato and onion

Synonyms: Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it; take it to the garden

9. "Hold the grass"

Translation: Hold the lettuce

Synonyms: Keep off the grass, rabbit food

10. "Yellow paint"

Translation: Mustard

Synonyms: Baby sauce, Mississippi mud

11. "Give it shoes"

Translation: Make it a take-out order

Synonyms: Go for a walk, let it walk, late walk, on wheels, put legs on it, with legs

Put It Together

Burger: Take a Cow on a Walk Through a Garden.

I need a walk a cow through the garden, hold the grass, splash some yellow paint on it, and give it shoes!


When it comes to diner lingo, there are hundreds of variations for the same terms. It’s an endlessly fascinating language! But, whatever you do, make sure you’re not a "George Eddy". In other words: someone who doesn’t tip!