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an illustratoin of a hot dog
figure 1  

 

hot dog. (food) A popular sausage sandwich.

This is a ubiquitous staple of the American diet. It is often associated with baseball parks and is a common feature of school lunch menus across the continent. These days you can get the basic sausage made from almost any number of ingredients, with or without fat and with or without meat. The classic hot dog comes in a specially designed bun and is treated with a range of condiments (or not) depending on your taste and the region in which you live or grew up. These include, but are not limited to: ketchup (or catsup), mustard (though probably not moutarde), relish, pickles, onions, chili, and jalapeño peppers. Not surprisingly, this is a term coined in America for something that comes from abroad.

There are a surprising number of stories about the origin of the term. The first I came across indicated that the Germans marketed something much like the beloved food item of today as “dachshund sausages” and sold them off pushcarts. It is said that the term “hot dog” itself was made up by Thomas Dorgan, who was drawing a cartoon of a concession stand and decided to depict the wieners as daschunds. The story goes that Dorgan couldn't spell the word dachshund—or maybe it was frankfurter he couldn't spell. In any case, he used the shorter monosyllabic hot dog instead.reference 1 He supposedly depicted a hot dog stand at the Polo Grounds—or was it Madison Square Garden? The stories vary, which—as it turns out—is not important. It seems that they are not only completely apocryphal, but they are also dead wrong. Michael Quinion offers this explanation: “It seems to have come about as the result of the obituary of Harry Stevens that appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on 4 May 1934, in which these supposed events were recorded; the writer may have borrowed the story from an article in Restaurant Man in 1929.”reference 2

1. Hofmann Sausage Company, Inc. 2001. Hot Dog History. Hofmann Sausage Company, Inc. Accessed August 26, 2001 from http:/ /www. hofmannsausage. com/hotdog.htm.

2. Quinion, Michael. 2001. Hot Dog. World Wide Words. Accessed Sep 20 2001 from http:// www. quinion.com/words/qa/qa-hot1.htm.
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figure 2
Quinion gives such an erudite, authoritative, and well documented discussion of the origin of this term, I don't think I will repeat it all here. Let's just say that I am convinced. Here are the key points. First, in the mid-1800's, people were a leeetle bit suspicious of the contents of their sausages and were worried that, just maybe, that the stuffing included dogmeat. Second, picking up on this completely ridiculous calumny, Yale students of the latter part of that century called the push carts that sold such sausages “dog wagons.” All of this is duly noted in the October 19, 1895 Yale Record which reported, “They contentedly munched hot dogs during the whole service”. reference 3
3. Ibid.
The whole question of who started “frankfurter,” an earlier German moniker, is equally a matter of debate, is not germane here.reference 4 4. Edelman, Joe. [n.d.]. What Are Hot Dogs Made Of? uselessKnowledge.com. Accessed Aug 26 2001 from http:/ /www. uselessknowledge.com / explain/ hotdog.shtml.
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About the illustrations: Figure 1 is your basic American classic with mustard, and not, as I prefer it, with ketchup. But then, the yellow worked much better in the illustration than red. By the author.

Figure 2 shows a hot dog wagon in Wellsley, Massachusetts,reference 5 a few decades later than the original Yale wagon. This image is copyrighted and unlicensed. I believe that the use of this scaled-down, low-resolution portion of an image to illustrate the article “hot dog (literal)” qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

Figure 3 shows a nun about to eat a hot dog. Collaged by the author.

5. Fields, Samantha. 2007. Will Lower Falls’ Hot Dog Wagon Get Blown Away by Winds of Change? Wicked Local Wellsley. The Wellsley Townsman. Accessed Apr 1 2008 from http:// www.wickedlocal.com/ wellesley/ archive/ x1998361906.
see also: dog wagon
cf: hot dog (show-off); hot diggity dog!
Last updated: July 25, 2009
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