Like anyone who rocks bleached tips, Avril Lavigne-style decorative armbands, and at least six pairs of sunglasses on the back of their head at any given time, Guy Fieri has his detractors. Anthony Bourdain loathes the guy. Pete Wells ripped him apart in a viral New York Times review like Harambe would have ripped that toddler’s limbs off. He might be a punchline for some, but there is no denying that Flavortown’s benevolent despot has been one of the most influential figures in the food world.
Since winning the second season of Food Network Star and launching his flagship show, Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, not only did he change the face and tone of one of cable's biggest networks, but he also changed the way America interacts with food media as a whole. The old guard of Food Network stars sold aspiration. Everyone wants a serene, luxurious life in the Hamptons, making lobster tarragon salads and sipping Chenin Blanc like Ina Garten, even though that lifestyle is unachievable for 99.9999 percent of America. The same goes for Bobby Flay and his sangria drinking, weekday rib-eye grilling ways.
Fieri, on the other hand, democratized the food we see on TV. Instead of selling pipe dreams, he sold us what we already knew and experienced on a daily basis—and we bought it harder than anyone could have predicted. Triple D elevated the casual, everyday foods we eat; Guy Fieri turned diner meatloaf sandwiches into idols of worship.
But the show’s enduring success can also be attributed to Fierispeak: a signature protolanguage—more important than all his big-dick American muscle cars combined—that he uses to put a proprietary stamp on the show. There are tons of food and travel shows on the air, but no one slings catchphrases like the Mayor of Flavortown.
More than anything, his brand of colloquialisms became a way to disarm the viewer, connecting to people across multiple generations. For younger viewers, he has the whimsical sitcom uncle effect. Outdated terms like “gangster” and “dynamite” are so comically out of touch that it’s endearing. But this has the opposite function for the old heads who watch the show; Fieri uses slang so deftly and confidently that he comes off as a key arbiter of culture.
Fieri’s legacy is going to be written—and is currently being written—in terms of catch phrases and non sequiturs. A man can die, but his usage of “funkalicious” and “crunchatacious” will live forever. The Mayor of Flavortown asked the question: What happens when you omit the word “resplendent” for “bomb-dot-com”? And we collectively responded: We’ll watch the f*ck out of you saying it.
The bottomless bag of Fieri slang is a hallmark of the show—here’s how to decode it.
Illustrations by Louie Chin
This is one of Fieri’s go-to expressions in the earlier seasons of Triple D, where his campy bro-ishness was at its peak. The etymology seems to come from the late ‘90s slang “the bomb,” meaning good. It's coupled with the smooth-rhyming “dot com” to signify that we are close to reaching technological singularity and, even if we wanted to, we could never unplug from The Matrix. Also, you’ll notice that the more outlandish the descriptor, the less it seems that Fieri actually likes the food.
Example: You know what, it might just be a mound of oil-logged Pillsbury crescent dough, but it’s bomb-dot-com tasty, amigo.
The earliest usage of the phrase “dynamite” as a positive descriptor (though pronounced with an affected cadence) is credited (by me) to actor Jimmie Walker, most well known for playing J.J. on the hit 1970s sitcom, Good Times. As it pertains to food, the implication is that the flavor is so explosive, it mimics the destructive blast power of actual TNT. It is not clear which meaning Guy Fieri intends to invoke, but “dynamite” is one of his more generic terms of approval.
Example: When the ham fat combines with the Dr. Pepper—that’s dynamite, brother.
Festival of funk
Sometimes the funk is so intense that it cannot be contained in one dish. Sometimes that funk bleeds out into several satellite funks, combining together to form a festival of funk. This phrase, like many of Fieri’s, is generally interchangeable with several other positive, flavor-based descriptors, but it is most readily coupled with food from non-Western cultures.
Example: And then the fish sauce goes into the pot and it comes out as a whole festival of funk.
Flavortown is King Fieri’s fiefdom, where the rivers flow thick with gravy and fast-casual salad chains are chased away by violent meatstick-wielding mobs. Some say Flavortown doesn’t really exist, that it’s more of an idea that lives in our hearts. But let me assure you, like heaven, Flavortown is for real. To get there, all you need is a bucket of trans fats, a childlike sense of wonderment, and a whole lot of bath salts.
Example: We’re takin’ you on a road rockin’ trip down to Flavortown, where the gravitational force of bacon warps the laws of space and time.
A portmanteau of “funky” and “delicious,” Fieri reserves this adjective for any food that confuses him. Sometimes things get so confusing, you just have to make words up. We’ve all been there.
Example: I may not agree with your dietary lifestyle, but those vegan peanut butter crabcakes are funkalicious.
In the Fieriverse, anything can be gangster. Did you dry-age your own heritage pig prosciutto for three years? That’s gangster. Did you whisk hot sauce into mayonnaise and call it “Awesome Sauce”? That’s gangster, too. Gun down a fellow restaurateur over a turf dispute? I mean, it hasn’t happened yet on the show (that we know of), but, yeah, that’s also gangster.
Example:Hello, fellow youths, would you like a slice of this gangster loaf of meat?
Hot frisbee of fun
More than just a rejected title for an Ultimate Frisbee-themed porno (would watch), Fieri uses this phrase to refer to any circular food (frisbees are indeed circular) that could be considered both hot and fun. That means pancakes, hamburgers, tostadas, and also any food served on a circular plate. Most foods are hot frisbees of fun.
Example: These cheesy pork fat pancakes are a hot frisbee of fun coming straight for your dome, muchacho.
Hot tub in Flavortown
Flavortown has the most hot tubs per capita in the world. That’s totally a thing. Seriously. Everyone knows that. Look it up. Any time Guy Fieri sees a large pot of hot liquid—most often soups, stews, or, occasionally, treat-filled deep fryers—it reminds him of his realm’s glorious obsession with capitalist luxuries. It pleases Him. He is a proud if vainglorious king. Anyways, yeah, he says this about literally any hot, wet food, and it’s hilarious.
Example: That industrial-sized vat of lobster tater-tot bisque is lookin’ like a Hot tub in Flavortown.
In Fieri-speak, a joint is any establishment that serves food. The term is most often coupled with adjectives “funky” and “little” to foreshadow a restaurant’s uniqueness.
Example: I’m here in Waxahachie, Texas checking out this funky little joint serving up—that’s right—chicken-fried armadillo nuggets.
This food is so delicious, that it will literally cause you to lose consciousness. You will black out, wake up somewhere near the Guatemalan border, probably naked and inexplicably covered in henna tattoos and nicotine patches. Fieri only uses this phrase for reality-bendingly dope food. There are times when the food is so good that he ditches some of the more outlandish catch phrases, wipes the whimsy from his face, and gets real with the chef with his compliments. This is one of those times.
Example: Seriously, man, I gotta tell you, for real this time, I’m not even messing around—those corned beef taquitos are lights-out delicious.
Out of bounds
When the flavor is so explosive, it cannot be contained in a regulation sized football field (120 yards by 53.3 yards). Of course, there is no way to physically measure diffusion of flavor, so Fieri relies mainly on guess work and pitbull-like instincts here.
Example: This pickle soup has at least 6,396 square yards of flavor, forcing it out of bounds.
Put it on a flip flop
In the later episodes of Triple D, Fieri uses this as a shorthand for “This food is so packed with flavor that you could put it on a flip flop and it would still be palatable.” In 26 seasons of the show, Fieri has yet to eat an actual flip flop, signaling that this may be hyperbole. However, hope still remains that within the next 75 seasons, Fieri will eat an actual sandal. Fingers crossed.
Example: That nacho lasagna is bombtastic! Put it on a flip flop, my man!
This is arguably the most nuanced of all Fieri-isms. To get at its true meaning, you have to read between the lines. Fieri is known for his compassion and optimism in the face of even the shittest of foods. How many times have you seen Guy totally rip into someone? Never, and that’s part of what makes his shows great. But, you can still tell if Guy doesn’t like something through subtle, coded language. When he can’t bring himself to shower genuine praise on a dish, he latches onto something he knows to be irrefutably true: This food is real, and it is a deal.
Example: So you’re throwing those unseasoned ribs into a pot of boiling water and calling it BBQ? Well that’s some real deal pork flavor there, hoss.
Merriam-Webster defines righteousness as: “Acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.” This is one of the few times we see Guy Fieri use his platform as an opportunity to moralize. If a dish follows what Fieri considers to be divine food law, passed down from the Old Gods of Flavortown eons ago, he will not mince words.
Example: I’m here at a funky little joint in southwest Little Rock where twin brothers Jerry and Barry Hawkington are making some righteous sloppy joe Pop-Tarts.
Serve it on a trashcan lid
Anytime Guy Fieri suspects that a dish may be too large to fit on a normal-sized plate, he suggests that the chef “put it on a trash can lid.” Unlike the commonly used hypothetical “put it on a flip-flop,” this phrase seems to be literal. Anyone who makes nachos in a big-ass trash can has definitely used the lid as a serving vessel. This almost doesn’t qualify as slang, since it’s an actual suggestion.
Example: That’s a genuinely unwieldy portion of totchos; you should really consider serving those on a trashcan lid.
Shut the front door
Sometimes the Cincinnati-style chili mac sloppy joes are so good that Fieri wants to yell, “Shut the f*ck up!” as a sign of faux-incredulousness. However, since Food Network is the white bread of food television, no offensive language is tolerated. The etymology of “shut the front door” as a shut-the-f*ck-up alternative is unclear, but it may come from Mormon origin.
Example: You’re gonna stuff all that cheese in that tight little hole? Shut the front door!
That’s bananas, and bananas is good
Both Gwen Stefani and Guy Fieri think this shit is bananas…B-A-N-A-N-A-S. The great thing about this phrase, in its true Fierian form, is that it’s self-defining. He tells you, right there, that the food is bananas, which is, indeed, a good thing. Just in case there was any confusion.
Example: Those jalapeno waffle tostadas are bananas, and bananas is good.
That puts the shama lama in ding dong
Yeah…I uhhhh...I have no f*cking idea what this means. I don’t think Guy Fieri does either.
Example: That puts the shama lama in ding dong” (Said with absolutely no context at all.)
Deliberately mispronouncing Worcestershire—most people go with something like “wis-teh-sheer”—is the ultimate Guy Fieri dad joke. He does this without fail. Anytime a chef uses Worcestershire sauce in a recipe, Guy stares in the camera, and comically stumbles over the many syllables. It’s fucking endearing, and solidifies his role as National Dad We Wish We All Had. Unless he’s already your real dad—then, carry on.
Example: And all that Washashasahshashasha you put in the burrito puree is really gonna bring the funk.
Winner winner (Insert name of food that isn’t chicken) dinner
This is a completely meaningless phrase used to fill up airtime, but it’s also part of what makes Fieri so goddamned good at being on TV. There’s never an awkward silence when you can always deploy a randomly timed “winner winner something something chicken dinner.”
Example: That’s winner winner deep-fried Fruity Pebble beignet dinner right there.
A brief note on Fierian rhyme slang
In my extensive research for this article, which consisted of binge watching Triple D while slamming family-sized bags of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, I have heard Guy Fieri throw out these four rhyming phrases:
- Gettin freaky with your tzatziki
- Slamma jamma I love that lamb-a
- So much salami, call my mommy
- It’s time to face-a the cabeza
It’s not clear why Fieri does this, but it might have to do with cockney rhyme slang. In A Clockwork Orange, author Anthony Burgess took inspiration from Russian, German, and hyperfuturistic rhyme slang to create Nadsat, the official language of dystopian Britain. For instance, in the Nadsat dictionary, the word “cutter” translates to “money” because cutter rhymes with butter, and bread and butter is, apparently, common slang for money. In Fieri rhyme slang, a sentence might read as: “Front door shutter cutter check out that bread and butter!”