[Ads-l] Modern Proverb: Sacred cows make the best hamburger (antedating attrib Aardvark magazine 1965)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 12 07:17:34 UTC 2016

The adage in the subject line was discussed on the list way back in
March 2010. Now the QI website has an entry:

Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger

[Begin acknowledgment]
Great thanks to Szescstopni, Gary, and Erica A. Zwick whose inquiries
led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.
Special thanks to Bonnie Taylor-Blake, Victor Steinbok, and Charles
Doyle for valuable research. Thanks also to mailing list discussants
Jim Parish and Robin Hamilton.
[End acknowledgement]


On Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 8:59 AM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Sacred cows make the best hamburger.
> The earliest recorded citation for a close variant of this phrase is
> 1971. We present citations starting in 1965.
> The Yale Book of Quotations, WikiQuote, and Bonnie Taylor have the
> best information currently available about this saying I think. YBQ
> notes that Abbie Hoffman is associated with the maxim and cites a New
> York Times article dated 1989 April 20. The Times describes a memorial
> service for Hoffman datelined the 19th with a Rabbi who presents the
> quote ''Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger'' which is portrayed
> as one of Mr. Hoffman's favorite sayings.
> http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/20/us/mourning-and-celebrating-a-radical.html
> YBQ also contains an earlier reference to a 1979 book of quotes that
> associates Robert Reisner with the phrase: "Sacred cows make great
> hamburgers."  WikiQuote notes that Robert Reisner and Lorraine
> Wechsler published the volume Encyclopedia of Graffiti in 1974 and it
> contains the saying. Bonnie Taylor found "Sacred cows make good
> hamburger" in a cite dated 1971.
> Further below we present a 1968 Time magazine article that depicts
> Reisner and his students collecting samples of graffiti. The graffito
> "Sacred cows make great hamburger" is described as a recent student
> find. Hamburger is singular here although it is plural in Reisner's
> later Encyclopedia of Graffiti.
> Our first instance of the saying does not refer to graffiti, Robert
> Reisner, or Abbie Hoffman. In 1965 students at Penn State planned to
> revive a humor magazine called 'Bottom of the Birdcage' with
> inspiration from another magazine called Aardvark.
> Citation: 1965 October 19, The Daily Collegian, Ad Hoc Resurrects
> 'Bottom of Birdcage', Page 4, Column 6, Pennsylvania State University
> student paper. (Google News Archive, ActivePaper Archive full view)
> Birdcage's newly-adopted theme, borrowed from Aardvark magazine, is
> "Sacred cows make the best hamburger." Each issue will have something
> to offend each member of the family.
> http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q="borrowed+from+Aardvark+magazine"&
> I do not know much about Aardvark magazine. Prominent children's book
> author Shel Silverstein gave an interview to a magazine called
> Aardvark. A webpage gives this description: Aardvark "was the college
> humor mag at Roosevelt  University--but when the administration saw
> the first issue, they took away any official sanction of the mag, and
> forced [them] to publish off-campus."
> http://shelsilverstein.tripod.com/aardvark.html
> Our second citation is from the same source and concerns the same topic.
> Citation: 1965 November 13, The Daily Collegian, A Lesson in Humor,
> Page 2, Column 1, Pennsylvania State University student paper. (Google
> News Archive, ActivePaper Archive full view)
> Yes, the almost defunct Bottom of the Bird Cage was reborn again
> yesterday, true as ever to its policy that "sacred cows make the best
> hamburger."
> http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q="policy+that+sacred+cows"&
> In this third citation the saying is called "an old newspaper adage."
> Citation: 1968 January 25, Lowell Sun, Headliners, Page 12, Column 1,
> Lowell, Massachusetts. (NewspaperArchive)
> Princess Radziwell as "Laura" was, in the opinion of "Briefly"
> magnificent on TV last night. All the critics, of course, will pan
> her. It's understandable. An old newspaper adage says "Sacred cows
> make the best hamburger." Lee Bouvier is Jackie Kennedy's sister and
> she has to pay the penalty.
> In 1968 an article in Time magazine followed a class taught by author
> Robert Reisner as participants collected graffiti from lavatory walls.
> The next three cites present the saying as a graffito.
> Citation: 1968 November 15, Time, Curriculum: Handwriting on the Wall,
> Time, Inc. (Online Time Archive)
> Classes begin with students presenting their homework—arresting
> specimens of graffiti that they have collected during the week. Among
> recent, and printable, student finds: "Life is a hereditary disease,"
> found at the Princeton University student center; "Sacred cows make
> great hamburger," from an East Side cafe.
> http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,723866,00.html
> Citation: 1969 February 14, Ada Evening News, Journalists? by Ernest
> Thompson, Page 6, Column 1, Ada, Oklahoma.  (NewspaperArchive)
> Recently, our main thrust has been in the area of graffiti. Here are
> some samples:
> "Sleeping Beauty took Sominex"
> "Lassie eats chickens"
> "Sacred cows make great hamburgers."
> Citation: 1969 August 29, Lowell Sun, Graffiti lives and has since
> Rome was built, Page 26, Column 1, Lowell, Massachusetts.
> (NewspaperArchive)
> The best humorous graffiti take a droll look at modern society and its
> hang-ups. An urban pessimist wrote "Chicken Little was right" on a
> pillar of a New York subway, for example. "Sacred cows make great
> hamburger" is not only a prime slice of wall-writing, it's a kind of
> manifesto of graffiti-dom.
> Next we present a precursor citation for the saying. The notion of
> using the meat of metaphorical sacred cows for hamburgers is mentioned
> in the sports pages of the Chicago Tribune in 1940. The citation does
> not say that hamburgers generated in this manner would be the best or
> the tastiest. So this text is thematically linked to the saying under
> investigation but has a different meaning. This cite was found by
> Bonnie Taylor and mentioned on a forum at the Snopes website.
> Citation: 1940 September 29, Chicago Tribune, White Sox, Cubs Open 23d
> City Series Tuesday by Irving Vaughan, Page B5, Chicago, Illinois.
> (Proquest Historical Newspapers)
> It is almost generally conceded that the Cubs made a 100 per cent mess
> of their National league affairs this year. By the series of brilliant
> trades for which they have become so noted, by the nursing of sacred
> cows on which there isn't enough healthy meat to make up a five cent
> hamburger, and by all around smugness, the Cubs have deteriorated to
> such an extent that a good portion of the National league seems to
> have gone away and left them.
> http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=101;t=000381;p=0
> The link immediately above goes to a forum on the Snopes website where
> Bonnie Taylor presents several interesting cites for the saying
> including the 1940 precursor, a 1967 precursor, and a 1971 cite.
> Another precursor appears in the first half of the 1960s. This cite is
> closer to the target saying because the metaphor is extended to
> "better hamburger".
> Citation: Circa 1960 to 1965, College Board Review, Page 24, Issues
> 40-51, College Entrance Examination Board . (Google snippet view only.
> Not verified on paper. Date uncertain.)
> One mustn't butcher old sacred cows, however, without at least
> offering a better hamburger. So I have a modest set of recommendations
> for both ...
> http://books.google.com/books?id=SMAVAAAAIAAJ&q=sacred+cows#search_anchor
> Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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