Bill Mullins spots 1896 "hot dog"--(more thoughts)

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Dec 24 16:19:04 UTC 2004

I have a few more thoughts about the 1896 Utah attestation of "hot dog":

1) Although the passage appears in a Utah paper, I doubt it originated there. More likely the story (actually a bit of humorous creative writing) was first printed elsewhere and then merely reprinted in the Utah newspaper. As the available databases expand, the Utah "hot dog" item will likely turn up in at least one other newspaper.

2) There's not much chance that "hot dog" in the Utah item means "stylish." There's nothing in the context that would make this meaning appropriate.

3) True, the purpose of giving the dog corpses to the crematory was to have them burned, not eaten. But, hey, hey, hey, we all know how the real world works. In the *real* world, dog meat often wound up as sausage--at least according to the popular 19th century belief and with some basis in fact. Disgusting? Sure. But that was half the fun in the college kids coining "hot dog."

4) As for "hot dog" not being a count noun in the 1896 passage, true. But just as there can be hot roastbeef,
hot cornbeef, hot brisket, etc. there can also be hot
dogmeat, or, for short, hot dog. And hot dogmeat prepared in the crematory, is 'very "hot dog,"' as the 1896 article puts it. To our modern ears this isn't very funny,
but in the context of the 19th century it was all very acceptable.

Gerald Cohen
gcohen at

[Douglas Wilson's 12/23/04 message]
I am not convinced that this passage has any relation at all to "hot dog" = "sausage".

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 uncountable?

-- Doug Wilson

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