What is the origin of the phrase “hot dog”?

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Hot dog figurine

The word “hotdog” can either be hyphenated, one word or two words, in my opinion. Take your pick! I think the hyphenated version has gone out of fashion and perhaps in 2020 the best version is two words but I’m dictating this using software and it likes to spell hotdog in one word. So I’m sticking with it! You might imagine that the word hotdog originates in the sausage dog a.k.a. the dachshund and you’d be right but it is not the whole story.

Hot dog figurine

Hot dog figurine sold by Bradford.co.uk in the UK. Is the figurine wrong in that they have placed a frankfurter on top of the dog?

The idea of feeding frankfurter sausages in stadiums where the New York Giants played their football matches was the idea of an American called Harry M Stevens. The hot frankfurter had become a craze but they were too messy so Harry had the idea of encasing them in a long, hot bread roll to which he added mustard which made it taste hot. That’s how the word “hot” was introduced into this snack.

Then in 1903 a well known sports cartoonist TA Dorgan (Tad) had the idea of substituting the frankfurter with a dachshund dog. It must have seemed a natural thing to do because this dog breed is a sausage dog i.e. very long and round. TA Dorgan coined the phrase “hotdog” to describe his fictional creation and the name stuck for evermore.

However, some people queried whether the hotdog was made of dog meat and sales slumped as a result. The local Chamber of Commerce issued a directive that people should stop using the term hotdog in advertisements to try and boost sales but the name crept back and as we all know it never went away. It is perhaps one of the best known snacks by name in the world.