Once upon a time, or so it seems now, a girlfriend sent me out with orders to come back with hot dog buns, which is what I did.
But when I handed her the grocery bag, she cried out, “Oh, no! What are these?”
“They’re hot dog buns,” I replied ever so naively.
“No they’re not!” she insisted.
“But they’re what I’ve always had hot dogs on,” and they were.
She would not believe me, so off we went, together, to the supermarket.
“These,” she said, “are hot dog buns.”
They looked like a flattened loaf of bread cut in fat slices. The side of each “bun,” in fact, was without crust – naked, to my taste.
Pointing to another shelf, I looked at the kind I’d always known – the kind, that in fact, came labeled Hot Dog Buns. Hers, in contrast, were labeled Frankfurter Rolls.
Hmm, we both said without satisfaction.
She had, in truth, grown up in New England and lived nowhere else. And her idea of how to serve a hot dog was unique to the region. Not in something she considered a torpedo roll.
This can, in turn, point to a lot of other regional distinctions. Whether you call a device a watercooler, a water fountain, or a bubbler, as we do here. Or whether you order a soda, a pop, or a cola. Feel free to expand the list. It can go on a long time.
Fast forward, then, to lunchtime at a national conference being held in Rhode Island. I sat down and joined a random group that included a handful of teens. One was from North Carolina. I pointed to the hot dog on his neighbor’s plate. He looked bewildered. “What’s it wrapped in?” he asked.
“Would you call it a hot dog bun?” I prompted.
“Oh yes it is,” said the girl from Connecticut. “It’s what we always use.”
You know where the conversation went from there. Yes it is, no it isn’t.
At least the college cafeteria knew to stock both Hot Dog Buns and Frankfurter Rolls. As we all discovered.
Hmm. Maybe next time we have a crowd over and we’re grilling hot dogs, I’ll get packages of both – and then see which kind goes first.