Ask the Boffin #1 – Hot Dogs and Informality

Thank you for responding so quickly with questions, and The Boffin got right on the case.  I have had no input into these answers.


A Political Science Graduate Student Originally from the Philadelphia Area Asked:

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a sandwich as “An item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal.”

However, a hot dog is defined as: “A frankfurter, especially one served in a long, soft roll and topped with various condiments.”

Therefore, a hot dog exists in two states, either with or without a bun. In both cases, two pieces of bread are not required in order for it to constitute a hot dog. Therefore, a sandwich, it isn’t.

Knowing the background of the person who asked a question and the use of hot dogs in their hometown American football stadium, I would also like to question whether ‘projectile’ is a closer way to define the item?

Hitting Swoop gives you a Triple Bonus score.
Hitting Swoop gives you a Triple Bonus score. “Philadelphia Eagles Mascot Swoop” by Kevin Burkett from Philadelphia, Pa., USA – Originally posted to Flickr as Philadelphia Eagles Swoop. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons


Shadowseye Asked:

Is American society or are Americans, in general, more informal than Brits? Or vice versa?

Dictionary time!!! Formality is defined as: “The rigid observance of rules of convention or etiquette.

The stiffness of behavior or style.”

Therefore, it comes down to who defines the rules of convention and etiquette.  Guess what? In 1776, the US wrote a little document which basically lanced the part of society that defined the rules. People sitting in diners in New Jersey are rarely seen as purveyors of etiquette. However, guess what, in the U.S., they are! The U.K. is held hostage, meanwhile, by a small group of people who hold the keys to the mythical ‘Upper Class’. This is the group who set convention and etiquette. They know how to hold a fork (guess what Americans…. you have no clue). How to drink soup. How to have polite conversation. How to have affairs with married women called Camilla. In the U.K., formality (and therefore informality) is driven by this group of people, who really should have no greater say in how we should act as a people than Bob in the diner who is on his third stack of pancakes.

However, if you remove the cream of society (rich, thick and full of clots), then you actually discover that society can make up its own mind over what is acceptable. We still have our rules in the U.S., but they are always in flux. Our definition of formality is not set by someone who’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather once let the King borrow some troops to help bash down a few monasteries. Instead, we make group decisions. There is less stiffness, but we are still bound by rules of convention. However, as there is no single set of rules, you get to pick the one that best suits you. As a result, the U.S. is more informal because we really can’t agree on what being formal is.

So to all the Brits who come over to the U.S., either as tourists or expats, I say enjoy the freedom of U.S. informality and stare at somebody else’s shoes for a change.

22 thoughts on “Ask the Boffin #1 – Hot Dogs and Informality

  1. Great answers, but I bogged down on the hot-dog-existing-in-two-states answer. I’m still trying to decide if we’re talking about Schroedinger’s cat (or hot dog) or if we’re talking about Colorado and New Jersey. Or if the two states have to be contiguous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that the dictionary sees hot dogs as stiil being hot dogs if they are lying on the counter, bunless. However, I tend to agree that the also exist in quantum states being both good and bad for you at the same time. As for geography, a hot dog at Four Corners would exist in four states.


  2. (Sigh)

    Dear Boffin-in-law, you’ve been part of this family much to long to know that any true Philly sports fan would never throw a perfectly good hot dog at a game. They are to be eaten in proportion to body weight then vomited on the closest police officer and their child.

    Six volt batteries are much preferred. This goes for the western part of the state too. (Looking at you J.D. Drew and Dave Parker!)

    Snowballs are a specialty item only used to throw at winos dressed as Santa who are giving the bleachers the finger.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. The hot dogs are f*^#ing horrible, absolutely. But it’s Philly. They’re going to be eaten. Period.

        Now don’t get me started on the two infamous steaks-that-will-not-be-named. Rat meat and canned cheese. Ugh.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. When football stadiums start serving perfectly good hot dogs, then I am willing to change my comment. However, most food is barely edible and is there to prevent a reinactment of France’s 1812 Central European Vacation.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aren’t you just being pedantic about the hot dog, Boffs? It’s basically filling in bread, which is basically what a sandwich is. Why does it have to fit into this construct of a dictionary definition when language is far more fluid than that? Are hoagies not sandwiches? The hot dog fits the spirit of a sandwich.


    1. Hoagie. Now there’s the proper term, especially in an article that has Swoop’s picture in it.

      It’s not a sub. Or a grinder. Or a wedge. Or a hero (bet the Greeks still love that one). It’s a hoagie, dammit!

      Yes, I’m a being a Philly-fan stormtrooper today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had a Dietz & Watson truck come to our local supermarket a few months ago. I asked the people running it how exasperated they get having to explain what “Hoagie Dressing” is to the outside world. They just laughed and said the speech is now like a computer program that they run automatically. It’s just a matter of getting people to try it.


  4. Great article, though tackling such deep questions as the relative ‘sandwichness’ of hot dogs might have been thought as either overly ambitious, or, simply pandering, for a first attempt…. But, you pulled it off with aplomb…

    Nice analysis of the comparative states of formality, too…

    I think you’ve hit upon a great concept; I’m looking forward to a fecund field of commentable posts… and, yes, I make up words all the time… not to worry. They’re usually not sharp enough to cut…

    gigoid, the dubious

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In Sociology class, we learned about laws, norms, folkways and mores. (Pronounced more-ay)

    One of the questions on my quiz was “Explain, in detail, what is a more?”

    My answer: “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!”

    Liked by 1 person

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