Bill Mullins spots 1896 "hot dog"--(more thoughts)

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Dec 24 17:01:43 UTC 2004

I'm also very skeptical that this is a reference to sausages. The other
possibilities are more plausible. There is nothing in the passage to
indicate any connection to frankfurters or even to human consumption of dog
meat. And then there are the grammar problems.

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Jonathan Lighter
> Sent: Friday, December 24, 2004 8:52 AM
> Subject: Re: Bill Mullins spots 1896 "hot dog"--(more thoughts)
> I've become wary of "early cites" that seem to contain problems
> of grammar.  If the original article really says "very hot dog"
> rather than "a very..." I would suspect first that something else
> is going on, though probably not a reference to fashionable airs.
> Maybe a pun on the interjection "Hot dawg !" ?
> JL
> "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"
> Subject: Bill Mullins spots 1896 "hot dog"--(more thoughts)
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> -------------
> I have a few more thoughts about the 1896 Utah attestation of "hot dog":
> 1) Although the passage appears in a Utah paper, I doubt it
> originated there. More likely the story (actually a bit of
> humorous creative writing) was first printed elsewhere and then
> merely reprinted in the Utah newspaper. As the available
> databases expand, the Utah "hot dog" item will likely turn up in
> at least one other newspaper.
> 2) There's not much chance that "hot dog" in the Utah item means
> "stylish." There's nothing in the context that would make this
> meaning appropriate.
> 3) True, the purpose of giving the dog corpses to the crematory
> was to have them burned, not eaten. But, hey, hey, hey, we all
> know how the real world works. In the *real* world, dog meat
> often wound up as sausage--at least according to the popular 19th
> century belief and with some basis in fact. Disgusting? Sure. But
> that was half the fun in the college kids coining "hot dog."
> 4) As for "hot dog" not being a count noun in the 1896 passage,
> true. But just as there can be hot roastbeef,
> hot cornbeef, hot brisket, etc. there can also be hot
> dogmeat, or, for short, hot dog. And hot dogmeat prepared in the
> crematory, is 'very "hot dog,"' as the 1896 article puts it. To
> our modern ears this isn't very funny,
> but in the context of the 19th century it was all very acceptable.
> Gerald Cohen
> gcohen at
> [Douglas Wilson's 12/23/04 message]
> I am not convinced that this passage has any relation at all to
> "hot dog" = "sausage".
> To say that there is a reference to dog meat here is correct but
> perhaps misleading: the reference is to dog corpses which are
> specifically to be burned (and not eaten), as I understand the piece.
> The context indicates that "[hot] dog" here is to be taken as an
> uncountable noun: thus "make [very hot] dog" rather than "make
> [hot] dogs" or "make a [hot] dog". The best guess I can make as
> to the sense of "dog" here is that it is in sense 6a in HDAS,
> i.e., "dog" = "ostentation of
> style"/"airs". This was routinely treated as uncountable: e.g.,
> "to pile on dog" (1893), "put on a heap o' dog" (1895), "a heap
> o' hawtoor an' dog" (1897), and even "all of this Hot Dog you're
> throwin' on" (1904) (all from
> HDAS). I suppose that this sense has been stretched to make a
> joke in the above passage, and according to my best guess the
> interpretation would be "It would also be very stylish" or so.
> Maybe I'm wrong, of course ... but
> is there any other early instance of "hot dog" = "sausage" being
> treated as uncountable?
> -- Doug Wilson
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