15 Fun Phrases Popularized During Prohibition

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Keystone/Getty Images

Prohibition ended 85 years ago—on December 5, 1933—but the colorful colloquialisms it brought about will live on forever. Here are just a handful of them.

1. Blind pig

An illegal drinking establishment, a.k.a. a speakeasy, that attempted to evade police detection by charging patrons a fee to gaze upon some sort of exotic creature (i.e. a blind pig) and be given a complimentary cocktail upon entrance. Also known as a blind tiger.

2. Juice joint

Yet another term for an illegal drinking establishment.

3. Jake walk

A paralysis or loss of muscle control in the hands and feet, due to an overconsumption of Jamaican ginger, a.k.a. Jake, a legal substance with an alcoholic base. The numbness led sufferers to walk with a distinct gait that was also known as Jake leg or Jake foot.

4. Ombibulous

A term made up by writer H.L. Mencken to describe his love of alcohol; he noted, “I'm ombibulous. I drink every known alcoholic drink and enjoy them all.” Mencken was also fond of referring to bootleggers as booticians and is alleged to have invented the term boozehound.

5. Skid road

A precursor to the term “Skid Row,” a skid road was the place where loggers hauled their goods. During Prohibition, these “roads” became popular meeting places for bootleggers.

6. Brick of wine

Oenophiles looking to get their vino fix could do so by simply adding water to a dehydrated block of juice, which would become wine. (And you thought a box of wine was bad!)

7. Bathtub gin

A homemade—and often poorly made—gin that was preferably served in a bottle so tall that it could not be mixed with water from a sink tap, so was mixed in a bathtub instead. Though the phrase references gin specifically, it came to be used as a general term for any type of cheap homemade booze.

8. White lightning

The whiskey equivalent of bathtub gin; a highly potent, illegally made, and poor-quality spirit.

9. Teetotaler

A person who abstains from the consumption of alcohol. The phrase is believe to have originated within the Prohibition era’s temperance societies, where members would add a “T” to their signatures to indicate total abstinence (T+total-ers). 

10. Dry

A noun used in reference to a man or woman who is opposed to the legal sale of alcoholic beverages. Bureau of Prohibition agents were often referred to as Dry Agents (though corruption among this crew ran rampant). As an adjective, it describes a place where alcohol is not served. 

11. Wet

The opposite of dry, a wet is a person who is for the legal sale of alcoholic beverages or a place where liquor is in full supply.

12. Whale

A heavy drinker. 

13. Blotto

Extremely drunk, often to the point of unconsciousness.

14. Hooch

Low-quality liquor, usually whiskey. The term originated in the late 1800s as a shortened version of “Hoochinoo,” a distilled beverage from Alaska that became popular during the Klondike gold rush. The phrase came back into heavy use in the 1920s. 

15. Giggle water

An alcoholic beverage.

6 Tasty Bits of Waffle House Kitchen Slang

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iStock

While Waffle House is a 24-hour diner, their servers don’t use typical diner slang to communicate orders to the kitchen. The restaurant chain uses its own lingo to employ what they call the “Pull-Drop-Mark” system to take orders in all of its 2100-plus locations throughout 25 states.

“The Pull-Drop-Mark system is what our associates use to ensure our guests get their meal quickly," Pat Warner, Waffle House's director of public relations and external affairs, tells Mental Floss. "It consists of the call-in where the server calls in the order using this system. Since we opened in 1955 we’ve used a call-in system for our team. It has evolved over the years as we’ve expanded the menu, however even today’s system can be traced back to the first restaurant.”

Here are some delicious terms you might hear during your next Waffle House visit.

1. The Mark

At every Waffle House, there is a small red tile surrounded by gray tiles on the floor near the open kitchen and grill. This is called “The Mark,” and it’s where every server or sales associate stands when he or she is calling in an order for the grill operator. Servers are only allowed to call in orders from The Mark to make sure only one order is being called at a time.

The Waffle House has used the call-in system since the chain was founded nearly 65 years ago. It’s the best way to get orders filled quickly and served to customers within the company’s eight-minutes-or-less mandate.

2. Pull

The “Pull” refers to all the meats for an order that the grill operator should pull from the refrigerator, be it bacon, sausage, chicken, sirloin—or all of the above. The meats for an order are pulled first because they require the longest amount of cooking time. After declaring "Pull," the server then calls the amount for the order, based on the standard serving size for each dish.

For example, if a server asks for “Pull one bacon” that means three slices of bacon, which is the standard amount. If a customer wants six slices, the associate would say “Pull two bacon.”

3. Drop

The “Drop” refers to any hash browns being included with an order. A sales associate might say “Drop four,” which means the kitchen should drop four hash brown orders on the grill. After a server calls the amount for the drop, then they may indicate the style, “scattered” or “in a ring.”

If a customer wants their hash browns “scattered” that means they want them broken up and spread out while cooking; if they want it cooked together and compact, the server would call “in a ring.” If a server doesn’t call “scattered” or “in a ring,” the default style is always “scattered.” So if a sales associate calls in, “Drop four, three in a ring,” that means four hash browns, one scattered, and three in a ring.

4. The Plate

Actor Chris Rock (2nd from left) stops by the Waffle House after the VIP screening of Paramount Pictures' 'Top Five' and meets customers Donnell Woods, Daryl T. Johnson II and Semhar Haile on December 9, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia
Chris Rock makes some new friends at the Waffle House in Atlanta, Georgia
Rick Diamond, Getty Images for Allied

When calling in an order of hash browns, the server must give a minimum of two pieces of information: “The Drop” and “The Plate.” The “Drop” is for the amount of hash browns to cook on the grill, while the “Plate” refers to the order that gets those hash browns.

For example, if a customer orders two scrambled eggs with hash browns, the server would call in, “Mark order scrambled plate.” If a customer wants grits instead, the call-in would be, “Mark order scrambled.” All breakfast orders default to grits, so there’s no need to say grits. If a customer wants to skip both the grits and hash browns, then the call-in is, “Mark order scrambled, hold the grits.” (Though why would they want to do that?)

“It’s two different labels for the hash browns,” Warner says. “The ‘Pull’ alerts the cook (or as we call them grill operator) how many hash browns to drop on the grill to get them cooking. The ‘Plate’ refers to any order that has hash browns. Say you get a quarter cheeseburger with hash browns—that’s a 'quarter cheese plate,' so we know the hash browns go on the same plate as the cheeseburger.”

5. Deluxe

Waffle House sales associates call burger orders “quarter” because it’s exactly a quarter pound of beef, or four ounces. If a customer wants lettuce, tomato, and onions with their burger, then the order call-in is “Deluxe.” So if the call-in is “quarter cheese deluxe,” that means a customer ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onions.

6. All The Way

Although Waffle House was founded in 1955, it wasn't until the early 1980s that the franchise started to offer toppings on their iconic hash browns. It started when restaurant owners noticed grill operators adding something extra, like gravy and jalapeños, to the hash brown they made for family and friends. It wasn't long before customers began requesting the same toppings for their potatoes, so Waffle House obliged and officially added a range of toppings to the menu in 1984.

Of course, being Waffle House, there was a special spin to these toppings and the call-in lingo for servers and grill operators. Customers can order their hash browns scattered and smothered (with sautéed onions), covered (with melted cheese), chunked (with grilled hickory smoked ham), diced (with grilled tomatoes), peppered (with spicy jalapeño peppers), capped (with grilled button mushrooms), topped (with Bert’s Chili), or country (with sausage gravy). If you're really hungry, or really brave, you can also go “all the way,” which means you'll get all eight toppings served on scattered hash browns.

7 Common Words With Little-Known Relatives

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iStock.com/deepblue4you

When some words hit the big time, they left clunky related terms behind. You can make amends by sprinkling these little-known relatives into conversation, but don't be surprised if you have to provide a definition.

1. Exhaust/inhaust

While exhaust, from the Latin for "draw out of," was first attested around 1540 and went on to a great career in the English vocabulary, inhaust, with the meaning "draw into," was attested in 1547 (something about a "flye inhausted into a mannes throte sodenly") but soon became obsolete.

2. Omniscient/nescient

You know about omniscient, which comes from the Latin for "all knowing," but did you know there was a counterpart meaning "not knowing"? You can now consider yourself more-scient!

3. Resuscitate/exsuscitate

Exsuscitate was around in the 1500s, as was resuscitate, but where resuscitate was for the act of bringing someone back from the dead, exsuscitate was for the less impressive act of rousing or waking someone up from sleep. It didn't stick, and it doesn't look likely to be resuscitated.

4. Preliminary/postliminary

Postliminary has a technical use in international law, where it refers to the "right of postliminy" (stuff taken in war gets returned), but it's also been used sporadically since the early 19th century as the opposite of preliminary.

5. Incantation/excantation

If your incantation turns out to be a magic spell that somehow gets you in a jam, it might be good to be able to perform an excantation to get yourself out of it. Too bad the word, attested in 1580, is now obsolete.

6. Incrimination/concrimination

It wouldn't be fun to be the subject of an incrimination, but it might be a little more fun to be part of a concrimination with your friends, meaning "a joint accusation." The word shows up in a 1656 dictionary, but we have no evidence that anyone ever used it.

7. Inaugurate/exaugurate

Back in 1600 the word inaugurate was used to describe a ceremonial act of consecration or induction into office, but there was also the word exaugurate meaning, according to the OED, "To cancel the inauguration of; to unhallow, make profane."

A version of this piece first ran in 2013.

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