Laws and Sausage

Sun Jan 13 03:39:27 UTC 2008

        This is a long-shot, but it does give me an opportunity to bring
up Bismarck's sausage duel.  The scientist and politician Rudolf Virchow
in 1865 cast aspersions on Bismarck's veracity, and Bismarck in turn
challenged Virchow to a duel.  Virchow, as the challenged party, was
entitled to choice of weapons.  According to some accounts, Virchow
chose sausages.  He produced two sausages, telling Bismarck's seconds
that one sausage was infected with trichinosis, while the other was
quite wholesome.  He proposed that Bismarck choose and eat one sausage,
and he would thereupon eat the other.  The duel was not held.

        It is a historical fact that Bismarck challenged Virchow to a
duel, and that the duel was not held.  The story of the sausages goes
back at least to A.H. Miles, One Thousand and One Anecdotes (1895), when
Virchow and Bismarck were both still alive, though not necessarily
paying attention to stories written about them in English-language
texts.  Any connection between the incident (if it happened) and
Bismarck's remark (if he said it) is, of course, conjectural at best.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Cohen, Gerald Leonard
Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2008 10:04 PM
Subject: Re: Laws and Sausage

Barry sent the message below to a select group of ads-lers, and I now
forward it to the entire list.  Btw (independent of Barry's message), we
know that the making of sausages could be unsavory in 19th century USA
(dogs, cats, rats), but did these scandals also occur in Germany?  If
the making of sausages in Germany was free of the scandals that
sometimes plagued the US, Bismarck probably had no reason to make a
disparaging remark about sausages. I.e., perhaps he never made it..

Gerald Cohen


From: Bapopik at [mailto:Bapopik at]
Sent: Sat 1/12/2008 7:01 PM
Subject: Fwd: Laws and Sausage

In a message dated 1/12/2008 5:50:13 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
sarokin at GMAIL.COM writes:

        As to the Law and Sausages query, the earliest mention I can
find of it dates back to an 1891 article in the Washington Post.  No
mention of Bismarck, although (coincidentally?), the setting is
US-German honorary dinner, and is during Bismarck's time.

I don't quite know what's going on. I posted on this quite a while ago.
It's in the Yale Book of Quotations from April 22, 1869, but it can be
taken back further to April 1, 1869.

The Yale Book of Quotations - Page 86

by Fred R. Shapiro - Reference
- 2006 - 1104 pages

22 Apr. 1869: "Saxe says in his new lecture: 'Laws, like sausages, cease
to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made. ...
1 April 1869, Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Herald, pg. 3, col. 3:
John G. Saxe says that "laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in
proportion as we know how they are made."

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