"hot dog"--Sam Clements' 1937, 1939 attestations

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon May 31 20:34:16 UTC 2004

Again, my thanks to Sam Clements and Douglas Wilson for their new
"hot dog" attestations. Here now are my thoughts about Sam's material:

1) Would Sam please provide the references for the 1937, 1939 attestations.

2) We must be careful about placing the "hot-dogger" attestations of
the 1930's in the semantic context of 1890's "hot dog" (show off),
for which there are no unambiguous attestations in the 1910's, '20's
or '30's.
The context for "hot dog(ger)" that we do find in the 1930s is one of
inferior/second-rate boxers, with the term extended to movies,
golfing (with shift of meaning to "as yet unknown golfers"), and
probably baseball (with shift to "show-off"; truly inferior
ballplayers are quickly released by professional teams). So
"hot-dog(ger)" in the 1930s-1940s was becoming an all-purpose
put-down, traceable ultimately to the departure of boxing fans to get
hot dogs and other refreshments when the preliminary bouts (with
their second-rate boxers) were underway.

3) The 1937 quote would fit the sense of a general put-down of
s.o/s.th. as second-rate. Also, the connecting of the already
existing "hot dog(ger)" (s.o./sth. inferior) with the Supreme-Court
judge named (Felix) Frankfurter was no doubt too tempting to pass up.

4) The 1939 quote says: '...You had to look twice--sometimes three
times--before you could believe that here was the sire of the brain
trust, the "hot dogger" whose name has provoked such wrath in
anti-New Deal circles.'). I believe that in calling Frankfurter a
"hot dogger whose name has provoked such wrath in anti-New Deal
circles," the writer is likening the judge to the incompetent boxers
whose performance would evoke cries of "Throw the bum out." The focus
here is not on Frankfurter the "sire (of the brain trust)"--which
would suggest pomposity and hence "show-off") but Frankfurter the
incompetent/the second-rate/the bum.


At 10:23 PM -0400 5/29/04, Sam Clements wrote:
>From: Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
>Just to add to Doug's posts......
>I propose that he's correct, it is merely a continuation of the term that
>existed many years before.  And I further propose that it was resurrected to
>apply to Felix Frankfurter and his protege's.
>There are fascinating cites from Newspaperarchive.
>1937-- "EXPERT--Another man frequently assailed as a "Roosevelt brain
>truster" or a "Frankfurter hot-dogger" is Mordecai Ezekiel, chief economic
>adviser of the department of agriculture."
>1939--"SHREWD--Felix Frankfurter has become almost a myth to the American
>people, and like most fictitious characters he doesn't fit the popular
>conception of himself at all.  He is not the pompous, professorial, radical
>being he had been painted by enemies, not the saint of the cloisters his
>worshipers make him out to be. <snip> You had to look twice--sometimes three
>times--before you could believe that here was the sire of the brain trust,
>the "hot dogger" whose name has provoked such wrath in anti-New Deal
>I think the 1950's? sports metaphor was only a continuation of Felix "hot
>dog" Frankfurter.  His high profile perhaps brought the old term into use

Gerald Cohen


More information about the Ads-l mailing list