This sounds like a silly question, but I've heard some very strong opinions about this, so I find this intriguing.

A hot dog is a type of sausage (at least according to Merriam-Webster, Wikipedia, and Encyclopedia Britannica), but I find that very few friends and coworkers agree with this, and they go so far as to say that a hot dog isn't a sausage at all. It seems that there is a perception that goes along with the term "sausage" that people refuse to associate with the term "hot dog," even though the former is a generic term for the latter.

I noticed the strength of this perception when watching an episode of American Idol last year. When Jacob says, "A hot dog is a type of sausage," not only did the others disagree, but so did people on Twitter. Enough people tweeted in disagreement with his statement that "sausage" became a trending topic for a few hours. It seems odd to me that there would be that much resentment to his statement, since it was trivial. And technically, he was correct.

I'm curious to know if this is a localized perception or if this extends to outside the U.S. as well. Am I correct in believing that a hot dog is a type of sausage and that it's not widely accepted to refer to it as such in the U.S.? If so, is this unusual perception (that a word is acceptable as a definition but taboo as a substitution) confined to the U.S., or is this sentiment common in other countries as well?

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    A hot dog is a sausage in the same way that a hamburger is a sandwich. – Jon Purdy Mar 15 '12 at 14:34
  • Voting to close as "not constructive". As OP has already discovered, usage varies widely (by region, social background, age, etc.) There's no definitive answer, so all we're going to get is inconclusive "poll" answers. – FumbleFingers Mar 15 '12 at 14:45
  • @FumbleFingers: The question is whether it’s local to AmE or not, which Schroedinger’s Cat’s answer addresses. – Jon Purdy Mar 15 '12 at 14:47
  • @Jon Purdy: Schroedinger’s Cat’s answer is probably misleading. Both Brits and Americans routinely assume a "hot dog" bought as "fast food" will in fact be presented in a bread roll. But when buying a pack of "hotdogs" in a supermarket, we don't expect the bread rolls. I do not think there's a significant US/UK difference over what "sausage" or "hotdog" mean beyond what you'd expect by virtue of the fact that certain types of sausage are more common in some places than others. But my chef lodger, for example, calls any hot sausage in bread a "dog roll". – FumbleFingers Mar 15 '12 at 15:16
  • Another nuance: 'sausage' has one physical manifestation/definition - the tubular object. But one could analyze the situation as that there is another distinct physical impression with the same name that has an alternate meaning (related of course): just the ground up meat product. And a frankfurter is -definitely- not that. – Mitch Mar 16 '12 at 21:11

In short, yes, it is acceptable in AmE to call a hotdog a sausage, but it does seem strange when you put it like that because ones idea of sausage in AmE is nothing like a hotdog.

Technically a hot dog (or frankfurter) is a specific type of sausage. There's no way around that (processed meat shaped like a tube). The kind of meat, casing preparation, color, taste, etc all distinguish the kinds of sausage.

In most people's minds, however, the canonical sausage is not a frankfurter. In the US, the hot dog is very common and most other sausages are not. Also, most non-frankfurter sausage in the US is presented in a form that is very much unlike the traditional frankfurter, usually sliced in circular shapes (luncheon meats like bologna, mortadella, salami, and in a different setting breakfast patties), or ground as in ground sausage for mixing in other things.

I would go so far as to say that, while the frankfurter is in the traditional 'wurst'-like appearance, an AmE speaker would probably also deny that a brat (a bratwurst) is a kind of sausage. Or would even deny, despite its name, that a 'Vienna sausage' is a sausage.

A very different example, 'shoe' and 'sandal'. Technically a sandal is a type of footwear, and one might consider 'shoe' as a synonym of 'footwear'. But in practice, if someone says, 'put some shoes on', and you put on sandals, the first person might say, 'no you didn't understand, put some -real- shoes on'.

Which is all to say that, what you call something is not necessarily an accurate reflection of a technical relation. Even though 'sausage' is technically a hypernym (the name of the concept that includes the concept of another word) for hotdog, the canonical example of (and general usage of the term) sausage in AmE is definitely not a frankfurter.

  • Great answer. So, the general usage of the term overrides the generic usage of the term, and the prevalence of hot dogs and different sausages in other cultures may dictate how those terms are used elsewhere. The hypernym falls strongly out of favor over the more ubiquitous term, especially when there's such a strong distinction between its type and the rest of its category. – JR. Mar 15 '12 at 16:12
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    It seems from the other answers/comments that the 'you can't call a frankfurter a sausage' phenomenon is not just restricted to AmE but is common across all varieties of English (given the common food culture). – Mitch Mar 15 '12 at 17:07
  • Americans aren't that unfamiliar with sausages in links: we eat Italian sausage sandwiches and Maxwell Street Polish (which are basically the same presentation as a hot dog), Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, maybe some wurst or kielbasa... I find all of those familiar but I had to stop and consider whether bologna was actually sausage. – hobbs Jun 13 '17 at 5:29

All squares are rectangles, but when you say "rectangle," the image that comes to mind for most people is probably a rectangle with unequal length and width. The expectation that comes from the word rectangle is a set of objects that's smaller than the set that comes from the definition of the word.

I think it's the same with sausage. It's true that hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, balogna, kielbasa, and chorizo are all sausages. But if you meant one of those kinds of sausages, you'd normally use its more specific name. The word sausage then takes on an additional meaning that's something like the things that qualify as sausages for which we don't know a more specific name. If your spouse asks you to pick up a package of sausages at the store, you might ask: "Hot or mild?" or "Fennel or sage?" or "Turkey or pork?" but you wouldn't ask "Hot dogs or pepperoni?" because the answer is obviously neither of those.

  • True, but you wouldn't be faulted for grouping a square with other rectangles. It seems that people object to grouping hot dogs with other sausages, as if "hot dog" is an equal category to "sausage" rather than a subcategory. – JR. Mar 15 '12 at 15:39
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    @JR. Fundamentally, there's a conflict between two definitions of the same word. Given Y is X, X sometimes means all X's and other times means some X that's not Y. When the distinction between X and Y is strong enough, people will start objecting if you use X in place of Y. A tomato is technically a kind of fruit, but people will object in some contexts if you call a tomato a fruit instead of a vegetable. – Caleb Mar 15 '12 at 15:47
  • Thanks for this. It is part of what I was trying to get at but explains a little better. – Mitch Mar 15 '12 at 16:49
  • @Caleb Thanks for the added explanation. That makes a lot of sense. – JR. Mar 15 '12 at 17:24

I am Australian but spent a few years in the US as a child.

While I can agree that a hot-dog is technically a type of sausage, I would never call a hot-dog a sausage or a sausage a hot-dog, and I believe that this is a widespread predilection.

A hot-dog (or frankfurter) has a red skin and is already cooked, and merely needs to be heated in boiling water before being consumed. It can also be baked, of course, as when added to macaroni and cheese.

A sausage can be cured (eaten cold, except when added as a topping to pizza) or raw (eaten hot after frying or grilling).

Never the twain shall meet, or be confused with each other!

  • Hot dog! That's a great answer... – J.R. Mar 15 '12 at 10:22
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    It seems odd to me to call a fried or grilled sausage "raw". That's not raw, that's cooked. – John Bartholomew Mar 15 '12 at 15:36
  • @John, SteveP is referring to sausage that is raw before being fried, like the round disks in google images for breakfast sausage. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 15 '12 at 16:33

In the UK, there is a difference, but it is a different difference. A Hot Dog here would normally refer to a sausage in a roll, not the sausage on its own.

A sausage would normally refer to a skin filled with meat and who knows what else. Eating it raw would be akin to licking a pig, and not recommended, but cooked (normally fried or grilled) are fine, if you like meat. As a veggie, I prefer the sausages that do not involve meat at all, and so are not really sausages.

And there are also pre-cooked or smoked sausages, which are also sausage - often in the singular - eaten in all sorts of ways. Normally, these would be referred to by specific names, and tend to come from Germany or Italy.

  • Also in the UK if the word is to be used in any form of marketing, to be called a sausage it must have a certain minimum amounts of meat. This law does not apply to the word hot dog. – user1937198 Oct 7 '14 at 22:38

protected by Mari-Lou A Feb 7 '18 at 23:37

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