Come back to the street, Wiener honey!

A gift for today’s equinox (the autumnal one in my hemisphere), from the AP News site yesterday: “Hot dog! The Wienermobile is back after short-lived name change”:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Some names are just the wurst.

Just four months after announcing that the hot dog-shaped Wienermobile was changing its name to the Frankmobile, the one-of-a-kind wiener on wheels is reverting to the original.

Oscar Mayer announced Wednesday on Instagram that the Frankmobile is toast. The Wienermobile rides again.

The name change announced by The Kraft Heinz Company in May was meant to pay homage to the brand’s 100% beef franks and their new recipe.

For fans of the original name, the change was, frankly, ridiculous.

“It’s been a franktastic summer!” the Instagram post said. “But like you, we missed this BUNderful icon. Help us welcome back the Wienermobile!”

Oscar Mayer was headquartered in the Wisconsin capital, Madison, for nearly 100 years before it moved to Chicago in 2015. The first Wienermobile was created in 1936, and it has gone through several iterations since then.

Now, the everyday name for the foodstuff is hotdog. The name wiener is slang, rather playful in tone, coming with suggestions of both dachshunds and penises. The name frank (short for frankfurter) seems to be primarily a commercial term, lacking in any kind of soul. Wienermobile is a delightful name — funny, cute. Frankmobile has none of that. It’s hard for me to understand how Oscar Mayer got that so wrong. But now they’ve reversed their course, and the beloved Wienermobile is back on the roads

Now, some history, plus some puzzled notes on how Oscar Mayer labels its two main products, the pork-based (and no-beef) sausages and the all-beef sausages. They are, first of all, wieners, always. Then things get complicated.

To start, a Wienermobile from the old days:


Then, the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle (by Richard D. Trentlage, first aired in 1963), which I include here — just the lyrics, not the whole thing — because this popular and extremely sticky song fixes Oscar Mayer’s chief products as wieners:

Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d truly like to be.
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!

Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener
Oooh~ oooh~
Everyone would be in love with me

Then, about the Frankmobile, from my 5/19/23 posting “This year’s wiener on wheels”:

Coming on the heels of my 5/18 posting “A fellatio-adjacent pitch for The Wiener the World Awaited”, Oscar Mayer’s heralding their new wiener on wheels, the Frankmobile. Here’s the story from the Out Traveler website (for Out magazine), “Say Goodbye to America’s Favorite Wiener on Wheels: The unexpected move is part of the rollout of Oscar Mayer’s beefy new hot dog recipe” by  Jordan Valinsky of CNN Business on 5/17:

(#2) [caption:] THE ALL BEEF BEEF FRANK FRANKMOBILE, that’s what it says on the label

Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile is driving off into the sunset. Say hello, to … the Frankmobile.

For the first time in its nearly century-long existence, the famous hot-dog-shaped vehicle is changing its name. Oscar Mayer says the new Frankmobile name “pays homage” to the new recipe for its hot dogs rolling out this summer.

Despite the change, the Frankmobile looks largely the same compared to its predecessor – other than a new decal on the vehicle’s side displaying the Frankmobile name.

… The story comes from a branch of Out magazine. … Out‘s focal audience (and most of its staff) is fags, like me. This is important, because the story hinges on the symbolic value of hot dogs / wieners / franks as phallic symbols, and fags are deeply into penises. Oscar Mayer is giving the object of our desire to us on wheels, roaming about the country. It’s lubricious, and it’s funny.

Labeling Oscar Mayer wieners. The company advertises two kinds of hotdogs: pork-based sausages (stretched with chicken and turkey) and all-beef sausages. The details of the recipes might have varied a bit over the years, but the ads offer only these two choices. The former they call wieners, the latter franks.

Within each of these two categories, the very same food products are labeled classic, original, or (alas) original classic. But if there are any new improved (rather than original or classic) hotdogs at Oscar Mayer, they’re a well-guarded secret; certainly, they don’t appear in any advertisements I can find.

That is, the labels classic and original are not informative (also not contrasted with one another), but ornamental, feel-good labels conveying only the (somewhat deceptive) reassurance that that these are the old familiar hotdogs that Oscar Mayer has been turning out since the early 20th century.

So, entirely for your entertainment: four pictures of ads on the net for the products, two for the pork-based wieners, two for the all-beef franks.

The wieners:

(#3) Classic

(#4) Original

The franks:

(#5) Classic

(#6) Original classic


5 Responses to “Come back to the street, Wiener honey!”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Great post, Arnold. I have to assume that Oscar Mayer planned all along to change the name back to Wienermobile. If they really thought that Frankmobile might be a better or even equally good name, that just seems weird.

    Sausages have been around for a long time, and I suspect that they have been evoking penises for just as long. For example, the conclusion to the Decameron (c. 1353) includes this passage:

    “ And if perchance there be therein some tittle, some wordlet or two freer, maybe, than liketh your squeamish hypocritical prudes, who weigh words rather than deeds and study more to appear, than to be, good, I say that it should no more be forbidden me to write them than it is commonly forbidden unto men and women to say all day long hole and peg and mortar and pestle and sausage and polony and all manner like things . . . .”

    At least, that is what I make of the references to “sausage” and “polony” (I.e., a Bologna sausage). This is from the 1886 translation by John Payne on Project Gutenberg.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    It hadn’t occurred to me that Oscar Mayer might have been (under the influence of its ad agency, of course) that phenomenally devious (rather than thick-headed) and willing to re-label all their hotdog-mobiles, twice. The renaming came with the new recipe for the beef hotdogs, which Oscar Mayer calls franks rather than wieners, and I thought that triggered the name change. But yes, this could be like the death of Mr. Peanut.

    And yes, sausages are natural phallic symbols, regardless of what they’re called, in any language. But the associations of the *names* “wiener” and “frank” are hugely different, only the first evoking the sausage imagery and all that comes with it.

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    About the dachshunds, I suspect you may have it backwards. My understanding is that “wiener” is a shortened and Anglicized version of Wiener Wurst = “Vienna sausage”, and that the dog is so nicknamed because it’s shaped kind of like a sausage.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      No, I don’t have it backwards. My comments are *not* about etymology, but about ordinary speakers’ associations with “wiener”. Ordinary speakers don’t know etymologies, nor should they be expected to, nor should any knowledge they might have about etymology influence their usage.

  4. Robert Coren Says:

    Point taken. I’m not convinced that most people’s primary association with “wiener” isn’t the sausage, with the understanding that the dog is shaped kind of like a hot dog (ha), but I don’t have any actual data. (It is, of course, entirely irrelevant, although mildly interesting to me, that the common American sausage is called both “wiener” and “frankfurter”, which presumably refer to slightly different styles in the original German.)

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