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IlGreven, Swan a-Swimmin'
Grandma Got Run Over by a Rain Check

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"Sacred cows make the best hamburger."

I've heard this eloquent and witty quote attributed to the repository of almost all UL quotes, Mark Twain, but I question this simply because the term "hamburger" wasn't in widespread use at any point during his lifetime (I don't think...) Most restaurants that served it in the 19th Century called it "Hamburg steak" or the like...

A gigantic force on the 'Net, and even BIGGER in person.

Posts: 508 | From: Ohio | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kathy B
Angels Wii Have Heard on High

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Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger. - Abbie Hoffman Hoffman sounds a lot more likely than Twain.

The OED folks dates the first use of "sacred cow" to 1910, the year Twain died, so Twain isn't likely to have been familiar with that one, either.

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

Posts: 4255 | From: Sacramento, CA | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
The Red and the Green Stamps

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You know, I have my doubts that Hoffman himself coined that expression, though -- as Kathy alludes -- it's at least probable that it was something he had known, used among friends and fellow radicals, and helped to popularize.

As far as the presumptive age of "sacred cows make . . . hamburger" goes, the earliest occurrence (in the mainstream media, at least) that I can find was mouthed by someone pretty Establishment,

But [the Commissioner of Education for the State of New York] said the other day that "if the final recommendation is to abolish the Regents exams, I will go along with it."

"Sacred cows make good hamburger," the Commissioner added.

[From William K. Stevens's "Once-Feared Regents Tests Face Hazy Future," The New York Times; 18 June 1971; Pg. 41.]

But a related form that was circulating at least at the same time, if not a little earlier [1], reads,

John Gillespie: "Today's college students are making hamburger out of education's sacred cows."

[From Larry Wolters's "Gag Bag" column, The Chicago Tribune; 29 January 1967; Pg. G18.]

Now, Hoffman would've been about 30 in the late '60s, so it's obviously possible that the expression originated with him. But it wasn't until the summer of '67 that The New York Times even began mentioning him, and then he was only a semi-remarkable war protestor.

What's somewhat curious to me is that I can't find anything, again at least in the mainstream media, to indicate that Hoffman was ever formally linked in his lifetime to "sacred cows make the [best/tastiest] hamburger." This apparently wasn't something he'd uttered in an interview. Did it ever appear in any of his books or published speeches or in the contemporaneous writings of friends? Not that I've been able to tell.

What's apparent, however, is that upon Hoffman's death in 1989 his rabbi mentioned that "sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger" was one of Hoffman's favorite sayings. [2] In a separate story, former friends and well-wishers remembered "Hoffman quips," such as "Sacred cows make the best hamburgers," and "What's so intelligent about the C.I.A.?" [3]

In the absence of any significant documentation from the '60s or early '70s to pin this on Hoffman, then, I suspect that we can credit the former Yippie leader with popularizing the expression, but crediting him with its invention is more problematic.

Bonnie "no ox to grind" Taylor

[1] To tell you the truth, though, making sacred cows into hamburger (in a roundabout fashion) had been around for at least 25 years beforehand,

It is almost generally conceded that the [Chicago] Cubs made a 100 per cent mess of their National league affairs this year. By the series of brilliant trades for which they have become so noted, by the nursing of sacred cows on which there isn't enough healthy meat to make up a five cent hamburger, and by all around smugness, the Cubs have deteriorated to such an extent that a good portion of the National league seems to have gone away and left them.

[From Irving Vaughan's "White Sox, Cubs Open 23d City Series Tuesday," The Chicago Daily Tribune; 29 September 1940; Pg. B5.]

[2] The New York Times; 20 April 1989; Pg. A16.

[3] The Boston Globe; 20 April 1989; Pg. 1.

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Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator

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