Hamburger vs hamburg

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Jul 14 23:13:16 UTC 2001

Salibury steak in my Louisville youth was definitely what Alice calls
an integral piece of meat (optionally 'tenderized,' which I believe
is the relatively ordinary name for the process Alice so delightfully
characterizes). They looked a lot like "minute steaks" except for
their slathering in an inedible mushroom flour gravy (heavy on the
flour). The slightest pinkness (see below) was enouigh to send
Louisville locals into a fantasy of food poisoning or perceived
vampirism. Ground meat not on a bun (with or without gravy) was a
"hamburger steak."

Luckily, since we were (disguised) Hungarians in Louisville, the only
time I had to eat this stuff (and the other main meal of the region,
which we all called "fried critter," since the hidden meat was always
cooked beyond species recognition) was when I was invited to a
friend's house. I declined many such invitations on purely gustatory


>James A. Landau said:
>>In a message dated 07/14/2001 3:45:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
>>faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU writes:
>>>  And where does Salisbury steak fit into the picture?
>>Far from being a euphemism for "hamburger", Salisbury Steak was invented by
>>Dr. James Salisbury, a Civil War-era doctor and a pioneer in bacteriology (he
>>did work on germ causation of disease before Pasteur and Koch, but failed to
>>make any important contributions to the field.)  Salisbury also had a theory
>>on diets, which included that properly prepared meat was necessary for
>>health.  He invented the Salisbury Steak as---it is hard to picture this
>>nowadays---a health food.
>>It is not clear how much connection there is between the Salisbury steak, the
>>hamburger patty, the hamburger-on-a-bun, and other ground beek recipes.  The
>>use of the word "hamburger", at a time when the Salisbury steak was
>>reasonably well known, suggests that our modern hamburger developed and
>>became popular through a folk process that had little if anything to do with
>>Dr. Salisbury.  However, this is only my guess.
>Well, thinking back to canonical Salisbury steaks from my youth, all that
>they have in common with hamburgers is that they're made of ground beef.
>Hamburgers are thick and juicy and an appropriate shape to be served on a
>bun with ketchup, onion, and pickle relish (no tomatoes, lettuce,
>mayonnaise, or mustard). Salisbury steaks are thinner and cover up more
>space on a plate. They're served with (mushroom) gravy. It's possible (even
>desireable) to have a medium-rare hamburger; but all Salisbury steaks are
>uniformly well done.
>I could imagine that the original Salisbury steak was more like what we
>would call a cube steak, that is, a single, integral piece of meat whose
>fibers have been broken up by a medieval torture device. This "torture"
>might be believed to make the meat more easily digestible.
>Alice Faber                                       tel. (203) 865-6163
>Haskins Laboratories                              fax  (203) 865-8963
>270 Crown St                                   faber at
>New Haven, CT 06511                               afaber at

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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