Hot Dog. Beefcake. An etymology of meat words

March 27, 2012

story by Malia Wollan
illustration by Holly Mulder-Wollan
This article originally appeared in
Meatpaper Issue Seventeen. 

Beefcake n. slang, originated in the United States. (a) photographs or motion pictures of partially clad muscular men; (b) a display of sturdy masculine physique. The first printed instance of the word occurred in 1949 in American Speech, a quarterly academic journal of the American Dialect Society. “Alan Ladd has a beef — about ‘beefcake,’ the new Hollywood trend toward exposing the male chest.” The term “beefcake” is a play on the word “cheesecake,” which was a term used to describe sexy photographs of leggy women. The first recorded instance of the word “cheesecake” used in this sense occurred in Time in 1934. “Tabloid and Hearstmen [photographers working for newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst] go after ‘cheesecake,’ leg pictures of sporty females.” A Time article published in 1942 called German-American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich “The Supreme Empress of Cheesecake.”

Hot dog n. slang, originated in the United States. The sausage was so named because it was popularly believed to contain dog meat. The Hot Dog & Sausage Council begins its history of the term with another anecdote about a New York Journal sports cartoonist who, in 1901, drew a cartoon of dachshund sausages inside rolls. The story goes that, unsure how to spell “dachshund,” the cartoonist wrote “hot dog!” However, historians have yet to locate such a cartoon. The first confirmed printed reference to the hot dog was published in the Paterson Daily Press, of New Jersey, in December 1892. “The ‘hot dog’ was quickly inserted in a gash in a roll,” read the paper, “a dash of mustard also splashed on to the ‘dog’ with a piece of flat whittled stick, and the order was fulfilled.” The next year, another reference appeared in the Daily Times New, of Brunswick, New Jersey. “These ‘hot dog’ peddlers,” read the article, “they have been a familiar sight to thousands of summer visitors.”

Sources: The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, The Oxford English Dictionary, The Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

MALIA WOLLAN is a Meatpaper editor.

HOLLY MULDER-WOLLAN is an artist and illustrator living in Oakland, California.

This article originally appeared in Meatpaper Issue Seventeen.

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