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John Hodgman
Photograph: courtesy John HodgmanJohn Hodgman

The case against hot dogs as sandwiches

John Hodgman explains why hot dogs cannot be called sandwiches, despite podcaster Dan Pashman’s contrary argument

Written by
Tolly Wright

As the home of the some of the best hot dogs, and Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog eating contest, four pro-baseball stadiums (including minor league teams) and many of the most opinionated people in the world, New Yorkers can acutely feel the stakes—and the ground-steaks—of the polite war between comedian John Hodgman and foodie Dan Pashman: Are hot dogs sandwiches or not?

In 2014 John Hodgman originally made his controversial hot-dogs-are-not-sandwiches ruling in his “Judge John Hodgman” New York Times Magazine column. Shortly after that, the gauntlet was thrown down by the Cooking Channel’s You’re Eating it Wrong host Dan Pashman, who argued a strict pro-hot-dog-as-a-sandwich definition in his podcast The Sporkful. Now, over a year later, the two will debate the subject in full at The Sporkful Live. Before the live event at the Bell House though, Hodgman took the opportunity to break down his argument for us. If you’re not convinced by the end, read Pashman’s impassioned point-of-view here.

Why is a hot dog not a sandwich?
All of right-thinking humanity is on my side. Sandwiches are meant to be cut in half. You would never, unless under extreme duress or madness cut a hot dog in half. Picture yourself at a ball park, or even at a restaurant, cutting a hot dog and you will feel an instinctive, entire repulsion at the very thought of it. You can get a soup with a half sandwich, but you’d never serve a half hot dog with a soup. It’s the equivalent of cutting a pizza with a knife and fork. Pashman says anything “sandwiched is a sandwich.” He’s using the derivative verb to describe the sandwich, so he is proving the premise with itself; it is a complete logical fallacy. I hope they’ll openly boo him.

What about Pashman’s claims to be on the side of the Earl of Sandwich?
Hot dogs didn’t come through the Earl of Sandwich. It’s a piece of street food: It did not begin as a sandwich, it was a sausage. It was added on a bun later, because before, people would eat hot dogs with their white gloves at the St. Louis World’s Fair, which is gross.

What about dictionaries or encyclopedias that list hot dogs as sandwiches?
Humans are wrong all the time, Merriam-Webster—normally one of my favorite dictionaries—lists it as a sandwich, and I have a dispute with them as well. I spoke with a lexicographer, and to protect his or her job, I went back-channel and I said, “What is this?” and they went behind the scene and said, “I know, and it’s going to change.” I have the literature to back me up: Joel J. Kenson wrote, “ philosopher worth his crust yields unexamined deference to dictionaries” in his book There Exists an X, X Is A Sandwich.

Word of warning for Pashman regarding the debate?
I have no warning to him, he already knows my point. Dude, enjoy your tautology. I’m ready to move on to better things, like tacos, perhaps.

See the show!

The Sporkful Live
  • Comedy
  • price 2 of 4

What is the exact definition of a sandwich? Are hot dogs sandwiches? Are they their own separate, non-sandwich entity? Or are they even food? All of these questions are answered when comedian John Hodgman (The Daily Show) and The Sporkful host Dan Pashman go head-to-head in the most epic debate about sausages you could ever hope for. WNYC's Brooke Gladstone moderates.

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