Laws and Sausage

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Sun Jan 13 17:51:39 UTC 2008

I used the term "unsavory" as a sort of euphemism for "scandalous."  In 19th century USA there were frequent scandals involving the use of dog meat in making sausages, so much so that this knowledge entered popular consciousness and led ultimately to the term "hot dog."  In NYC at least there were "dog killers," young men armed with a club who would roam the streets looking for any dog, owned or stray, bash it to death with the club and sell the carcass to the unscrupulous butcher who hired him.  It was a  very well-paid job, btw.  
For further details (and numerous examples of the popular belief of dog-meat turning up in sausages) see _Origin Of The Term "Hot Dog"_, by Barry Popik, Gerald Cohen, and the late David Shulman, 2004.  (I published a limited edition, but copies should be available in a few libraries.).  A story on it from my campus' news office is available on:
The dog-meat-in-sausages theme became a staple of 19th century US humor. But I never came across mention (either humorous or serious) critical of the inclusion of unmentionable parts of pigs/cows/sheep/etc. in sausages.  This was evidently a non-issue in the US and (barring evidence to the contrary) in Germany too.
Gerald Cohen


Original message from Laurence Horn, Sat 1/12/2008:

At 9:03 PM -0600 1/12/08, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>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

I always assumed the unsavory part had more to do with which body
parts of the beasties (pig, cow, sheep, whatever) were used to fill
up the sausage, and not necessarily with anything as extreme as the
choice of beasties.  I'm sure the unmentionable body parts would have
been used in Germany, Scotland, China, or wherever; a sausage skin
hides a multitude of...whatever.


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list