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A friend of mine works at a restaurant that sells tortilla soup; however, I think the soup tastes like hot dogs. There are thus three ways to write this: hot dog soup, hot-dog soup, hotdog soup.

Only the open compound form of hot dog soup appeals to me aesthetically, and, for the most part, native speakers know what a hot dog is and will draw the connection. But what if the soup in question were actually a hot dog-soup/dogsoup?

What is the "best" way to write hot dog soup? Why?

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    Name it whatever you want -- whatever looks the best on the menu, etc. The "rules" on this are quite loose and subject to debate. – Hot Licks Aug 1 '15 at 16:48
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In most of the English-speaking world, there is no possibility of genuine ambiguity about what the meat in "hot dog soup" consists of—beyond the fact that hot dogs themselves are sometimes characterized as "mystery meat." Objectively, "hot dog soup" is no more ambiguous than "hot dog on a bun," and no one familiar with the U.S. term hot dog doubts what that is.

On the other hand, hot dog is a bit of an oddity in that Merriam-Webster spells the noun (referring to the sausage) as two words and the verb (meaning to show off by doing something flashy rather than merely workmanlike and efficient) as one word, closed up. A Google Ngram chart for the years 1900 to 2005 matching hot dog (blue line) against hotdog (red line)—with no differentiation between how the two terms are used—looks like this:

A specific comparison of plural noun forms—hot dogs (blue line) versus hotdogs (red line) across the same period yields a rather similar-looking chart:

:

It wouldn't surprise me if the closed-up hotdog eventually overtook the open hot dog in all senses of the term, but that obviously hasn't happened yet. If I were in charge of producing the printed menu for a restaurant that offered hot dog/hot-dog/hotdog soup, I might be inclined to run hotdog as one word, closed up, just to minimize the hilarity of easily amused diners. But then again, maybe a little hilarity in that setting is a good thing—as with the menu at a Chinese restaurant that offers such choices as "Strange flavor chicken."

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For the reason you suggest, "hot dog soup" looks a little like "hot dog-soup". If I saw either on a menu it might be the source of a few moments' humour.

I prefer "hot-dog soup" because I don't think many people write it as hotdog.

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    Actually, "hotdog" as one word is quite common in the US. – Hot Licks Aug 1 '15 at 16:46
  • @HotLicks: But "hotdog" is merely colloquial, and even then used as a (normally transitive) verb, from which the gerund "hotdogging" can be derived, as "Boys, you've had your attention. This is a dangerous waste of time. Now, stop hotdogging it and get to work!" (What is the verb's object? It! As I said, it's colloquial.) The noun is "hot dog." – thb Jan 13 '16 at 17:52

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