Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2003 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Diner lingo; How do chickens know what size eggs to lay?; a computer input device is called a mouse, what is the plural?; more | Q: What's the origin of the term "blue-plate special?" - Gary McCredie

A: Gary, restaurant historians say an entrepreneur named Fred Harvey began using the term in his Harvey House eateries in 1892. These restaurants were located in train stations along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. The blue-plate meal was pre-made and ready for passengers whose trains stopped only for a few minutes. Experts say the name came from the blue, imitation Wedgwood plates Harvey used.

The 1946 movie "The Harvey Girls," starring Judy Garland, is about the waitresses of a Harvey House. The movie features the song, "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," which was also a hit for Johnny Mercer and for Bing Crosby.

Here's some other diner lingo, used by waitresses and short-order cooks to communicate orders:

Adam and Eve on a raft: Two eggs on toast.

Axle grease: Butter.

Bossy in a bowl: Beef stew.

Breath: An onion.

Bullets: Baked beans.

Chopper: A table knife.

Dough well done with cow to cover: Buttered toast.

Eve with a lid on: Apple pie.

High and dry: No mayonnaise.

Lumber: A toothpick.

The twins: Salt and pepper shakers.

On the hoof: Meat done rare.

Put out the lights and cry: Liver and onions.

Sinkers and suds: Doughnuts and coffee.

Wreck `em: Scrambled eggs.

SOURCES: Food critic Daniel Rogov,

Q: How do chickens know what size eggs to lay? How are the sizes determined? - Linda Wyatt

A: Linda, state egg councils say several factors influence the size of an egg. The main one is the age of the hen. As hens get older they lay bigger eggs. The breed and weight of the hen are also factors.

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The egg sizes are jumbo, extra large, large, medium, small and peewee. Sizes are classified according to minimum net weight in ounces per dozen, ranging from at least 30 ounces for a dozen jumbo eggs to at least 15 ounces for a dozen peewee eggs.

Q: A computer input device is called a mouse. If I have a box of 12 of them, do I have a dozen mice or mouses? - Reed, Charlotte

A: Reed, there are basically three arguments on this:

1. It's "mice." Why wouldn't it be mice? The plural of mouse is always mice. Microsoft told me they prefer mice.

2. It's "mouses." In this case the word has a wholly different meaning, and mouses helps you differentiate the computer clickers from the rodents. Apple told me they prefer mouses.

(What a surprise! Those two companies disagree on something.)

3. Who in their right mind cares? It could be "meeses" or "thingies" or "mousen," but it's not worth worrying about.

But people DO worry about it. There have been long etymological debates about this online at MIT, with many a computer mouse clicking away.

You say mice and I say mouses. Mice, mouses, mouses, mice. Let's log the whole thing off.

What do you think is correct, and why?


Now for a few plays on words, thanks to

It was raining cats and dogs. There were poodles all over the road.

He wears glasses during math because it improves division.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.

The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.


1. What hot comedian, known for his edgy HBO show, was born Feb. 7, 1966 in Georgetown, S.C.?

2. What funny person said, upon hosting the Emmys in November 2001: "What would bug a guy from the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?"

3. Who swore never to do another sitcom unless he had greater control after being abruptly fired from "Benson"?

4. What Korean American comic jokes about TV executives asking her to lose weight in order to play herself?



1. Chris Rock

2. Ellen DeGeneres

3. Jerry Seinfeld

4. Margaret Cho

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here.


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10/23/03: 'American Pie' explained; Why are tennis balls seamed like baseballs?; more
10/14/03: Origins of comic strips and hush puppies; a college football quiz; dogs that don't bark
09/24/03: Why do snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes?
09/17/03: Glad You Asked: Fun with college football
09/09/03: What's so great about Wiffle Ball?
09/03/03: What kinda wine goes best with heartache?; What did people do before alarm clocks were invented?; which has more caffeine: coffee or tea?
08/26/03: These inventors were just toying with us
08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
07/31/03: How a dashing hero became a notorious traitor
07/29/03: Little red caboose rolling outta sight; From my 'I'll be a monkey's uncle' file
07/24/03: Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry
07/23/03: The sweet science of Life Savers' sparks; how do Pop Rocks work? ripping newspaper

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