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Old 07-05-2003, 11:04 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Spokane WA
Posts: 7
Why is ground beef called Hamburger.

Help me out here. My brother in law asked my why ground beef is called Hamburger instead of beefburger. I don't know! Oh the humiliation and embarassment this causes. Does anyone out there know the anwser?
Old 07-05-2003, 11:24 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: California USA
Posts: 224
"Hamburger" actually has nothing to do with ham. If I'm remembering correctly, t refers to a kind of ground beef steak that was popular in Hamburg, Germany, in the 19th century. That steak was subsequently brought to the United States by German immigrants.
Old 07-05-2003, 11:29 PM
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In the market it's labeled ground beef, not hamburger.

Ground beef is ground beef. When you form it into a patty and cook it to serve on a bun, it's a hamburger. Or sometimes hamburger steak.
Old 07-05-2003, 11:46 PM
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The Word Detective on Hamburger
Old 07-05-2003, 11:50 PM
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Similarly, frankfurter refers to a sausage popularized in Frankfurt and weener/weiner/wiener (which should be spelled wiener) refers to sausage from Vienna--Wien in German.
Old 07-05-2003, 11:55 PM
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Yes, it is named after the German city of Hamburg, and it was only later that other "---burger" words were coined, kinda like "Watergate" led to "---gate" to name political scandals, or "alcoholic" led to other "--holic" words (like "workaholic" or "chocaholic").

GaryM, the word "hamburger" can refer to the sandwich or just the meat (as in "Hamburger Helper"). I don't know the straight dope on which usage came first though. But it's similar to "hot dog," which could refer to the whole thing (bun and all) or to what you put in the bun. (Also known as a frankfurter or a wiener, oddly enough, even though Frankfurt and Wien (= Vienna) are totally different cities.)

I'd also be interested in learning the straight dope on who first coined another "---burger" word (I'm guessing it was "cheeseburger.")
Old 07-06-2003, 12:28 AM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Tejas
Posts: 3,436

Here in Athens, Tx. we have a hamburger cookoff every year and a block party downtown for the hamburger festival. Athens is credited by many as being the birthplace of the hamburger. They were sold here in the 1880's.

Texas also has a large German population that may contribute to the tale.
Old 07-06-2003, 01:30 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Spokane WA
Posts: 7
Thank you all for your answers. My honor redeemed, I can now face my brother inlaw again.
Old 07-06-2003, 10:23 AM
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I'd also be interested in learning the straight dope on who first coined another "---burger" word (I'm guessing it was "cheeseburger.")
Currently the term is traced to 1928 California. Thanks to Barry Popik for his continuing research into food terms(and just about any thing else you can name).

As the LA Times is digitized over the next year or so, you'll probably see that date extended back a bit. Almost certainly a California term/custom.
Old 07-06-2003, 02:38 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 18,439
I've heard from less then religable sources that the words hamburger and frankfurter were 'changed' to salsbury steak and hot dog during WW1 or 2 as to disassociate them with Germany. Sort of like freedom fries (glad that one didn't stick).
Old 07-06-2003, 02:42 PM
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: The Empire State
Posts: 6,672
Hamburg, New York (outside Buffalo) also claims to be the cradle of the tasty meat sandwich treat.

This food history site gives more details about Hamburg, NY's claim as well as Athens, TX's and also Seymour, Wisconsin. They all seem to agree on the late 19th century origin.

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