Modern Proverb: Sacred cows make the best hamburger (antedating attrib Aardvark magazine 1965)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 12 22:08:54 UTC 2010

Charles Doyle wrote
> Regarding the (putative) proverb "Sacred cows make great (the best, gourmet) hamburger (burgers)," I also find this in Google Books with the date 1942:  "A lot of sacred cows ought to be ground into hamburger."
> The citation is _Walther League Messenger_ 51: 433. That looks right, but I lack access to the volume to verify the information.

Victor Steinbok wrote
> "Early" truncation example from 1920 NYT? I only found this because the
> sentence immediately preceding the "dollar per" refers to steaks from
> sacred cows.
>> Why these steaks, ranging from 90 cents to $2? Are they all reverently
>> removed from sacred cows? What mean these soups, these vegetables,
>> these deserts, which apparently are kept from costing a *dollar per*
>> only by tremendous will power on the part of those who compose New
>> York's menus?

Those are wonderful cites. Thanks very much for reading the post and
performing productive searches. I found a large number of quotes that
I categorized as precursors, but for the sake of brevity I only
presented two of them in my post. Yet, these quotes can be
illuminating, so here are another two:

This 1963 cite is chronologically close to the first full cite in
1965. A sports reporter comments about the expensive hamburgers
available at a concession during a golf tournament. The quote is
connected thematically to the saying under investigation, but the beef
is non-metaphorical. This follows the pattern of Victor Steinbok's
excellent 1920 cite about steaks from sacred cows.

Citation: 1963 June 18, Portsmouth Herald, Sport City, Page 11 (NA
Page 10), Column 1, Portsmouth, Oregon. (NewspaperArchive)

We aren't allowed to mention prices in these columns, but for the
price they want at the concession stands for a hamburger, the beef
must have come from the Sacred Cows of India.

The second precursor is also close to 1965. The writer, a newspaper
editor, argues that the American Civil War was caused in part by the
flawed assumptions of Southerners and Northerners. "Reason and honest
inquiry and possible compromise were trampled to death by the Sacred
Cows - the facts that weren't facts but that you took on faith, lest
you be accused of disloyalty to your own kind. The Sacred Cows were
not to be examined." The author wishes that hamburgers had been
created from these metaphorical sacred cows, but he does not include a
satirical superlative description for tastiness or goodness. So this
instance is still not the complete quote in my opinion. This pattern
is similar to the excellent circa 1943 cite of Charles Doyle.

Citation: 1964 April 19, Logansport Pharos-Tribune, "Butcher 'Sacred
Cows', Warns Jenkin Lloyd Jones", Page 8, Column 1, Logansport,
Indiana. (NewspaperArchive)

How different all this might have been if, around 1855, the leading
newspapers and the leading preachers of the North and the South had
decided to make hamburger of the Sacred Cows


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list