Another Penn State "burger" (1926)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Apr 7 06:17:01 UTC 2005

Previously I reported on a Sep. 1926 article in the Penn State Collegian
giving "berger" as local diner slang for "hamburg(er) sandwich":

I found a slightly earlier _Collegian_ article about the same diner that
gives the more familiar "burger" spelling:


_Penn State Collegian_, July 22, 1926, p. 1, col. 1
New Vernacular Reaches Popularity As Jack's Students Become Greater

State College grows more cosmpolitan daily. Jabbers of French mingle with
staccato explosions of Greek at local refreshment parlors. The melodious
gutteral [sic] of Spanish passes back and forth across restaurant tables.
Native Italian vies with "Pennsylvania Dutch" on Co-op corner.
But a new and strange language, about which no textbooks have ever been
written, is slowly engaging the attention of an already bewildered
populace. Such expressions as "draw one," "set up," "burger on one," "a
glass," "one up," "cowboy special," "chip," will soon become common
expressions in the ever swelling collegiate vernacular.
Jack, the short order specialist and chef par excellence at Jerry
O'Mahoney's club diner de luxe, is responsible. He serves, along with his
food, a brand new, up-to-date line of chatter which is as amazing as it is
puzzling. To him bread and butter isn't bread and butter, it's a "set up."
"Draw one" indicates a customer's desire for a cup of coffee; "a glass" is
the wagon king's nomenclature for a bottle of milk.
Perched on the revolving stools before the long lunch counter the amazed
customer can only gasp and order a piece of pie out of pure curiosity.
"One cut," yells Jack. "Comin' down" replies Bill, his co-partner in
"Two hamburg sandwiches," orders the undaunted customer.
"Two burgers on one," the order goes. "Alley Oop," Bill comes back.
The pie and sandwiches vanish. The customer looks wistfully at Jack. "How
much?" he asks.
"Two bits," says Jack. "Business is pickin' up; I know my language."

--Ben Zimmer

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