FYI: "Origin of Hot Dog" in Hartford Courant two weeks ago
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Mon Apr 11 03:39:43 UTC 2005
Gerald Cohen and I wrote a book! WE WROTE A FUCKING BOOK! WE HAVE NAMES! WE'RE PEOPLE! PEOPLE!!
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Copyright 2005 The Hartford Courant Company
Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
March 29, 2005 Tuesday
SECTION: LIFE; Word Watch; Pg. D2
LENGTH: 420 words
HEADLINE: ORIGINS OF TERM `HOT DOG'
BYLINE: ROB KYFF
Kate Fogassa, a student at Renbrook School in West Hartford, asks why frankfurters are called ``hot dogs.''
Here's a question I can answer with relish!
Lexicographers have devised two conflicting theories about the origins of ``hot dog.'' There's the cute, charming explanation that's probably false, and the carnivorous, butcher-shop explanation that's probably true.
Let's start with cute: German sausages served in rolls, known as ``frankfurters'' or ``wienerwursts'' (shortened to ``weenies''), enjoyed popularity in America throughout the 1800s, but they were usually served cold.
The story goes that, during the cool April days of 1901, Harry M. Stevens, who ran the refreshment concessions at the Polo Grounds, home of baseball's New York Giants, was seeking a way to warm up the chilly fans. So he started selling frankfurters that were hot.
A short time later, sports cartoonist T.A. ``Tad'' Dorgan drew a picture for the New York Sun depicting one of Stevens' ``red hots'' as a dachshund in a long bun. Thanks to Dorgan, everyone started calling frankfurters ``hot dogs.''
But language historians find this story hard to digest.
First, no one has ever found a copy of Dorgan's cartoon showing a hot dog at the Polo Grounds. Dorgan did draw a cartoon depicting a dachshund in a bun, but it appeared in 1906, five years after the alleged Polo Grounds debut, and its setting was a bicycle race in Madison Square Garden.
Second, the term ``hot dog'' first appeared in print six years before the 1901 baseball season. A sentence in the Yale Record of Oct. 19, 1895, read, ``They contentedly munched hot dogs during the whole service.'' Moreover, the term ``dog'' for a frankfurter was in widespread use by the 1880s.
But why ``dog''? Here comes the icky part: Because many people believed frankfurters contained dog meat.
The doyen of American etymologists, H.L. Mencken, attributed ``hot dog'' to ``the folk belief that `wienies' were made of dog meat.'' So strong was this perception, Mencken noted, that in 1913, the Coney Island amusement park, fearing consumers would think its franks included canine flesh, banned the use of ``hot dog'' on its signs.
So while Stevens, Dorgan and baseball may have popularized ``hot dog'' during the early 1900s, we have to swallow the fact that the ``dog'' was already, so to speak, in the mix well before then.
Rob Kyff is a teacher and writer in West Hartford. Write to him in care of The Courant, Features Department, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or by e-mail at WordGuy at aol.com.
LOAD-DATE: March 29, 2005
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