Is a hot dog a sandwich?
A current (and recurring) debate was recently trending on Twitter, and though I usually find myself immobilized by the terror of screaming into the void, I’d like to humbly offer an alternative argument.
The question of whether a frank is a sandwich has nothing to do with the definition of sandwiches and everything to do with the function of language. Let’s start with the Wikipedia definition of sandwich. (I’ll happily smack in the ear anybody who argues that Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source on this.)
“A sandwich is a food typically consisting of vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread.”
Sounds plausible. Wiki continues:
“...or more generally any dish wherein two or more pieces of bread serve as a container or wrapper for another food type.”
Right, okay. So, like, most things are sandwiches? Is a taco a sandwich? Is a particularly crouton-heavy salad a sandwich? Am I a sandwich?!
In short: yes. Hot dogs are sandwiches. (Sorry, Joey.) So are tacos, hamburgers, Pop Tarts, tortilla wraps, BLTs, PB&Js, even the open-face avocado toast that you mortgaged your house to be able to buy is at least half a sandwich. Why? Let’s back it up a bit.
What’s bread? Dough made from flour and water and then cooked somehow. Tortillas and crunchy taco shells are flatbreads. Buns are bread. French loaves are bread. Are submarine/hoagie loaves bread? You bet. Pretty much every culture since the dawn of culture offers some sort of native bread.
So whether sandwich purists like it or not, pretty much everything slapped between/inside one/two/multiple slabs of breadstuffs is a sandwich.
But in practice, it all comes down to this: language is descriptive, not prescriptive. The fact that “dog” means what it means to us (or “perro,” or “köpek,” or “hund,” or whatever other signifer is applied to the signified) doesn't there’s some extra-lingual cosmic connection between those particular letters and that particular adorable pupperino. It’s because over time, those words have come to be generally accepted as denoting that “thing.”
If you called a dog a “tree,” you’re not a priori wrong, but you are a posteriori gonna get some weird looks from passersby. Unless you’re doing anything outside of pointing and grunting at a dog, you’re technically leaving some (if infinitesimal) room for miscommunication.
Which brings us back to tasty, tasty sammies.
If you walk into McDonald's and ask for a "hamburger sandwich," you’ll get a large side order of side eye. If you walk into a restaurant that lists hamburgers under the sandwich category and order a "hamburger sandwich," you’ll still get shot some side eye, because that just sounds weird.
If your friend hands you a hot dog and you say, “Thanks for the delicious sandwich!,” your friend will attempt to quietly dial 911 behind his back while maintaining direct eye contact with you.
If you walk into a Subway and insist on calling your meal a “submarine” and not a sandwich, because the bread is just a loaf with a slice down the middle instead of two distinct pieces of bread, then fine. But the 44,000-plus Subway franchises across 112 countries and their so-called “sandwich artists” might outweigh your extremely pedantic definition of sandwich, culturally speaking.
Just remember this: Half of English-speaking America made a goddamn whiny-ass fuss about people using “literally” to mean “figuratively.” Now even the Oxford English Dictionary lists “literally” as meaning both “literally” and “figuratively”? That ain’t erroneous, my friends. That’s called the evolution of language.
So if enough of us across the globe started calling hot dogs “meat tube sandwiches,” guess what? They’d be sandwiches! Until then, your decision to cling tightly to the precariously thin branch that is the “hot dogs are sandwiches” camp isn’t really serving any practical function of communication.
Besides, the KFC Double Down is also arguably a sandwich (that chicken is breaded!), so clearly, words mean nothing and everything is awful anyway. Go eat a sandwich.