Bill Mullins spots 1896 "hot dog" in a Utah newspaper (first non-college attestation)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Dec 24 03:46:40 UTC 2004

>Ads-l member Bill Mullins shared the 1896 "hot dog" passage below with me,
>and with his permission I'm now sharing it with ads-l. The big surprise is
>that "hot dog" here turns up in Utah (of all places) within 5 months of
>its first attestation at Yale (Oct. 19, 1895), and even though there's
>evidence for the term in ca. 30 colleges by 1900, its first attestation in
>the Harvard humor magazine comes only in 1901. Utah beat Harvard by 5 years!
>     The 1896 Utah attestation is the earliest one thus far noticed
> outside a college context, pre-dating by a year the 1897 one spotted by
> Sam Clements.
>The 1896 Utah "hot dog" doesn't specifically refer to a sausage, but the
>presentation of the term in quotes and the reference to dog meat seem to
>indicate the writer was familiar with college slang's new item "hot dog."
>     Mullins' information appears below my signoff, with "hot dog" being
> mentioned at the very end.
>Gerald Cohen
>[message sent by Bill Mullins to me, G. Cohen]:
> From the Ogden _Standard Examiner_ Feb 28 1896 , p. 2/5.
>"All About the Dogs
>Lamb-Like Session of the City
>Cost of Catching and Cremating
>Canines and Counting Caudal
>Come-a-Longs Causes the Only
>[skip paras 1 - 4]
>      One gentleman moved that the dog
>tax collector be required to bring in the
>tails of all dogs cremated and present
>them to the council with his bill.
>      Another gentleman objected long and
>strenuously.  He said that the mere
>presentation of a dog's tail would not
>prove that the other end of the dog had
>been cremated also, that if the position
>of canine catcher was ever filled by a
>dishonest man that the whole country
>would soon be filled with tailless kiyi's,
>and as fast as new tails grew out again
>they would be cut off and cashed in for
>a dollar apiece.  The other council-
>men rose up as one man and said, in
>effect, that a caudal appendage once
>amputated was always abbreviated.   The
>gentleman hedged by saying that the
>tails would be taken off on the install-
>ment plan, say once a month for three
>months, and then the profitless remains
>would be given to the crematory as a
>guarantee of good faith.  It would also
>make very "hot dog".

I am not convinced that this passage has any relation at all to "hot dog" =

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

-- Doug Wilson

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