A Wiener by any other name
ATTENTION - UPDATE
YEE HAA - Anthony Weiner is back in the news . . . it may be time to revisit this hub!
Now that all that Debt Ceiling stuff is over, can we get back to real news. Whatever happened to that Anthony Weiner guy? How about some follow-up . . . I mean, the story just fell off the edge of world as if it never existing (maybe it never did). I'm here to resurrect that thing and drag everyone through the muck all over again . . . ok, forget that, but I do want to talk about wieners and so I will, but first, a comment and some background information.
The Gods of comedy must be pleased. They seem to be smiling down on the comedian these days. Let's face it, politicians are easy pray . . . they are readily accessible, in the public eye, always in the news, seem to have gigantic egos and are always getting into trouble. Scandals seem to be the norm and perhaps they always have been. One of the most recent cases, by now, all too familiar to most of us, has to do with a guy named Anthony Weiner. Here is where the comedy Gods come in. Did they send this guy, a liberal politician from New York, of all places, who gets into a scandal involving in-appropriate activity on the Internet (of course, has to be the internet) and involves, among other things, his . . . you know . . . wiener (not capitalized). Oh My! I'm blushing.
Almost anyone, even the most humor-challenged could come up with at least one joke about this. The professional comedian could probably make a life's work out of it. I, on the other hand, have a different interest. To explore the word wiener in all its incarnations. How did this word, which really started off so innocently, become such an icon for a skinny, all-American, sausage, the hot dog and as such also became slang for a male body part (seemingly used mostly by adolescent boys with sometimes limited vocabularies but often vivid imaginations). I don't know how the congressman got that name (and yes, the e and i are have been reversed), but his Jewish forefathers obviously had know idea what they were in store for many generations later, but that is not their fault - read on . . .
The Hot Dog and Other Honorable Wieners
I venture to guess that there may be places in this country where a wiener doesn't conjure up much of a response (once again, with the exception of those 12 year old boys) but here in the upper mid-west, where sausage, in its many incarnations, is celebrated by the masses, the wiener has a very specific meaning. Oscar Meyer, a German immigrant (or maybe he was Austrian) liked the word so much that he called his brand of hot dogs, "Oscar Meyer Wieners." Others just called them Hot Dogs, or perhaps Red Hots. There is also the Frankfurter (or Franks), presumably from Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurter is also kind of a funny word but not as funny as Wiener. I read that in Austria they tend to call the hod dog a Frankfurter and in the rest of Europe, a Wiener - interesting. In the U.S. we seem to call it all of the various names.
Remember the two competing "Hot Dog / Wiener" songs heard in ads on the air-waves (back in the 60's and 70').
"Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, that is what I truly want to be . . ."
and . . .
"Hot dogs, Armour hot dogs, what kind if kids eat Armour Hot Dots . . . "
The Hot Dog is the most basic of the sausage family. Thought no-one is really sure, it apparently contains all of the parts of the pig (or cow) that are left over after all the good meat is removed. They say, if you ever go to factory and watch them make Hot Dogs, you will never eat one again . . . and yet, they are soooo goooood. I need to go eat one right now; I will be back later.
One nice thing about living in Chicago, no shortage of Hot Dogs! But let's get on with it. The Wiener. In its basic meaning, a Wiener is a citizen of Vienna or perhaps something else that originated in that ancient city. There, I said it . . . people from Vienna can be real Wieners. You see the German spelling of Vienna is Wein (with the W sounding like a V). Thus a person from Vienna or Wien (use the V sound) is a Wiener (again, use the V sound moron). Just like someone form New York is a New Yorker. Yes, we also may call them Viennese but work with me here people. In this country, were we apply our own AMERICAN pronunciation to everything, Wien become Vienna and a Weiner (with a V sound) becomes a Wiener (with a W sound). So is the Hot Dog from Vienna? Not sure, doesn't really matter . . . is the hamburger from Hamburg? Somehow, over time, the American Hot Dog (a form of sausage) took the name Wiener or the other way around and well, the rest is history - and funny history. By the way, check out the statue from Vienna; that's not a hot dog?
People from Vienna Like Being Wieners
Contrary to popular belief, the word is used in connection with many things Viennese. For example: Wiener Zeitung, a newspaper and Wiener Werkstatte, a late 19th / early 20th century movement of the arts in Vienna (use the V sound, please). These sound like very serious things, not funny sausages or body parts. Another meat product that is not a sausage is Wiener Schnitzel, which is veal or baby cow . . . and that's not really funny at all, but it is delicious! Also, don't forget the wiener dog. The dachshund is shaped a bit like a hot dog, doesn't really resemble someone from Vienna but they do share a common German heritage. Hey, maybe the word Hot Dog came from the Wiener Dog. I'm going to go with that. What a convoluted mess we have here.
Then there is the slang. You might call someone a wiener. If you do, you probably don't mean someone from Vienna, a hot dog, a dachshund or even a body part. You might just mean it as a general derogatory remark (like when I called you a moron before - sorry). While we are at it, how does some guy who shows-off his dazzling moves on the basketball court become a Hot Dog? That may be a subject for another time.
So what have we learned. Hey, if you came here to learn something then your at the wrong place, buddy. But seriously, the word wiener has many ancient and noble meanings and a long history behind it. We should treat it with reverence and respect, preferably while eating a Chicago style Hot Dog. By the way, the brand of hot dogs by a company called "Vienna Beef" is made right here in Chicago and they are some of the best hot dogs (or Franks, as they call them) around. The company history states that the Austrian/Hungarian founders introduced their "frankfurter" recipe to the Columbian Exposition in 1883.
What a tangled web we weave! Only in America could we take such a word and turn it into something that 12 year old boys would giggle at. Only in America!
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