Have you ever wondered why we call Frankfurt sausage rolls “hot dogs”? When you stop and think about it, that’s a pretty disgusting name for a Western dish. As it turns out, the origin of the word is fittingly repellent – and it means exactly what you think.
According to legend, the hot dog was invented by a German immigrant in the American midwest as a way to keep customers from burning their hands. (Previously, most sausage stalls sold their wares without buns.)
By the late-1800s it had become a fixture of the fast food industry. It was typically sold by street vendors in mobile carts, just like today.
From the very beginning, the meat used in hot dogs was considered to be of a highly dubious origin – which, by 19th century food standards, is saying quite a lot.
As explained in the Online Etymology Dictionary:
hot dog (n.)
also hotdog, “sausage on a split roll,” c. 1890, American English, from hot (adj.) + dog (n.). Many early references are in college student publications; later popularized, but probably not coined, by cartoonist T.A. “Tad” Dorgan (1877-1929). It is said in early explanations to echo a suspicion (occasionally justified) that sausages contained dog meat.
At the turn of the 20th century, consumption of dog meat in Germany was common. It is thought that some German immigrants may have brought the practice to America when hot dogs were first sold. (It should be noted that this was at a time when food regulations were much looser. So “going dog” would have posed less financial risk to the vendor.)
The belief was so widespread that Thomas Edison made a satirical short film about it in 1904. Dubbed Dog Factory, the film depicts a ‘Dog Transformator’ that instantly transforms dogs into sausages.
So the next time you’re chowing down on a hot dog and lamenting the lack of quality meat, just remember it could be a lot worse.
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