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  • Source Language Term




    Examples/ definitions with source references

    sinker (US) an informal word for doughnut


    How common is that word?

    Author penguin (236245) 25 May 21, 16:39
    Ergebnisse aus dem Wörterbuch
    sinkerder Ballast  pl.
    sinkerdie Beschwerung  pl.: die Beschwerungen
    sinkerder Senkel  pl.: die Senkel
    sinker [TECH.]der Schachthauer  pl.: die Schachthauer   [Mining]
    sinker [TECH.]der Abteufer  pl.: die Abteufer   [Mining]
    sinker [TECH.]der Schwebekörper  pl.: die Schwebekörper
    sinker [BOT.]die Senkwurzel  pl.: die Senkwurzeln
    Context/ examples

    If soda jerk jargon, luncheonette slang, hash-house Greek—or whatever you call the colorful, often inscrutable argot used by waiters and short-order cooks in a certain kind of bustling American restaurant most popular in the first half of the 20th century—is dying, it’s going out like an opera diva: anything but quietly, and with one too many encores.
    As early as 1936, Harold W. Bentley wrote in American Speech that the “craze” for “fantastic, grotesque, or witty labels for the food combinations from the kitchen” was waning due to the influence of chains and department stores, where such linguistic contortions—a hallmark of locally owned soda fountains and greasy spoons—were seen as déclassé. Decades later, a 1967 American Dialect Society survey of “Soda Fountain, Restaurant, and Tavern Calls” heard in one Lawrence, Kansas café warned that “the traditional calls reported in this article are now moribund.” And yet, here we are more than 50 years on, still talking about them. ...
    As any diner-lingo nut will tell you, mnemonic systems for vividly relaying orders from customer to cook seem to have arisen sometime in the 19th century, when fast casual American dining was coming into its own. The first diner—a converted horse-drawn freight wagon that served sandwiches, pie, and coffee—debuted in 1872, ushering in an era of simply and durably built eating establishments that served food quickly and stayed open almost all the time. Soda fountains—simple dispensers that evolved into elaborate marble shrines to fizz—began to appear in the 1820s and 1830s, and their popularity as distributors of non-alcoholic bubbly concoctions was helped considerably by Prohibition a century later. ...
    Beginning in 1939, the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project, which employed writers like Saul Bellow, John Cheever, and Zora Neale Hurston during the Great Depression, dispatched its scribes to record “New York Soda–Luncheonette Slang and Jargon” as part of America Eats!, a never-finished guide to ethnic, regional, and local culinary traditions already threatened by the growth of industrial foods. Other linguists and anthropologists undertook similar efforts in their own cities and towns, and diner lingo seeped into the dialogue of countless movies, plays, and TV shows.


    I've never encountered it in the wild, only in lists of slang and perhaps in the past on something like TV sitcoms.

    My impression is that it's very dated, probably peaking in the mid-20th century or before. Even then, it might have been more diner slang among waitresses and cooks than widespread among ordinary people.

    However, there are still a lot of articles about it, just as with Cockney rhyming slang, because it's so colorful. And who knows, it may sometimes come back into use.

    The people to ask might be any who still frequent old-fashioned coffee shops, doughnut shops, and diners, but I'm not aware that any of us in the forum are in that group.

    Perhaps coincidentally, just last night on PBS we watched a documentary on Independent Lens about Cambodian immigrants who built up entire networks of doughnut shops in the Los Angeles area. It had some entertainingly obscure songs about doughnuts, which might include other slang terms. I noticed that one of the diner lingo lists linked above also offered 'life preserver.' (-:

    #1Authorhm -- us (236141) 26 May 21, 02:12

    I also enjoyed watching the documentary "The Donut King". I found a playlist with the songs from it here:

    I pulled the lyrics for some of the songs off the internet but haven't really found any donut related slang yet.

    #2AuthorNorbert Juffa (236158) 26 May 21, 04:23
    Context/ examples
    The songs weren't actually that great musically, were they, sometimes just lists of different types of doughnuts. But we enjoyed the film, too, though my mom tends to get impatient with just slice-of-life things that don't seem to have a Point. (-;

    I was trying to think of some phrase you could search on in a text corpus, or in G***** Books, that would eliminate hits for other senses, like the weight on a fishing line, or a sports shot, or whatever.

    Surprisingly, the phrase 'coffee and a sinker' seemed to work pretty well, even though that may be almost too stereotypical.

    (If I recall correctly, that URL won't all turn blue, I think I needed to connect the words with a different character, but it should be copyable. *edit* Rats, I've tried different things and it still isn't right. Just go to DDG and put the phrase in quotation marks. I don't know why they make their searches so hard to share.)

    Maybe the O.E.D. or D.A.R.E. could also help narrow down some dates.
    #3Authorhm -- us (236141)  26 May 21, 07:00


    I'm reading Richard Ford's Sportswriter where the taxi driver stops for 'coffee and a sinker', so I was aware that it must be something to eat.


    Incidentally, the duckduckgo link is blue and clickable.

    #4Authorpenguin (236245)  26 May 21, 07:39

    I have never heard of a doughnut being referred to as a sinker, but DARE (Dictionary of American Regional English) knows of it:

    sinker n


    2 Any of var breadlike foods, as:

    a A biscuit, dumpling, roll, or pancake.


    b also belly-sinker; Spec.: a doughnut. Chiefly Nth, N Midl, West See Map

    Looking at the map, in has markers in all but a few Southern states, so usage seems to be spread fairly widely across the US, but with a heavy concentration in the areas noted in the text. Instances cited in DARE cover the time period from 1900 to 1986, being somewhat more frequent between 1920 and 1960 with a peak around 1940. It seems reasonable to assume that sense 2b developed from sense 2a (for which the first citation dates to 1870).

    #5AuthorNorbert Juffa (236158)  26 May 21, 07:44

    sinker meaning donut?

    That's news to me.

    #6AuthorSD3 (451227) 26 May 21, 17:54
    Context/ examples

    sinker, noun

    1 : one that sinks specifically : a weight for sinking a fishing line, seine, or sounding line

    2 : doughnut

    3 : a fastball that sinks as it reaches the plate— called also sinker ball


    7. a. slang (originally U.S.). A heavy dumpling.

    b. U.S. colloquial. A doughy cake; esp. a doughnut.



    To me, too; M-W lists it at sense 2, OED at sense 7b (first documented mention there: 1906).

    #7AuthorBion (1092007)  26 May 21, 18:55
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