Baloney and Other Disparaging Dishes

by Hugh Rawson

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made headlines recently when rejecting criticisms of a Muslim-American whom he had nominated as a state judge. “It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background,” said the Governor. “I’m happy that he’s willing to serve after all this baloney.”

Christie’s use of baloney in the sense of “nonsense,” “rubbish,” or “foolishness,” as opposed to the kind of baloney, or  bologna sausage, that one buys in a supermarket or delicatessen, has many precedents in American politics. New York Governor Al Smith helped popularize baloney in this sense  in the 1920s and ’30s. When declining to pose with trowel in hand for a cameraman at a cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1926, Smith said “That’s just baloney. Everybody knows I can’t lay bricks.” More famously, he objected to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s devaluation of the dollar in 1933, saying he was “for gold dollars as against baloney dollars.” And Smith’s speeches in support of Alf Landon, Roosevelt’s opponent in the 1936 presidential election, included the memorable refrain, “No matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.” Continue reading “Baloney and Other Disparaging Dishes”

Hot (Diggity) Dog

by Hugh Rawson

Hot dog may well be American’s most distinctive contribution to international cuisine, linguistically as well as actually.  The hot dog’s elevated position dates to at least June 11, 1939, when Britain’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor at their home in Hyde Park, N.Y. The menu for what was billed as a picnic luncheon that day featured ham, turkey, and “Hot Dogs (if weather permits).”

The weather did permit, and The New York Times reported on its front page the next day:


The King ate two hot dogs – “with gusto,” according to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (The Queen was more wary. She attacked her hot dog and bun with knife and fork.) Still, FDR could hardly have done better. Continue reading “Hot (Diggity) Dog”