Hot dogs and hat tricks

Vinh from Vietnam asks:

Could you please tell me the origin of the words hot dog and hat trick?

Thank you very much.

Roger Woodham replies:

hat trick

A hat trick was originally performed by a conjurer at a circus or variety show. The conjurer or magician pulled rabbits or other impossible items out of a top hat as if by magic.

In a sporting context, it was first used in the game of cricket in 1887 to describe an unlikely situation where a bowler takes three wickets with three successive balls. This entitled the bowler to pass his hat around the ground for a collection of cash, or he might have been presented with a new hat or cap by the club he represented.

This usage quickly spread to the game of football to describe three goals scored by the same person in a football match:

  • Geoff Hurst's hat trick in the 1966 World Cup Final will always be remembered by English football fans.

It has since spread to describe similar situations in other games:

  • Now as he approaches the tenth green, he's on a hat trick of birdies. A birdie on the eighth. A birdie on the ninth. Let's see if he can make it three in a row with a birdie on the tenth.

old hat

If something is old hat, it is out of date or obsolete or so well-known and familiar that it has become uninteresting or boring. The expression is thought to originate from the fact that hats, and particularly ladies' hats, tend to go out of fashion long before they are worn out.

  • Wearing a tie with a jacket - for young people, that's really old hat.


hot dog

For those among you who don't yet know this Western delicacy, a hot dog is a sausage, especially a frankfurter, inserted lengthways into a hot bread roll and garnished with onions, ketchup or other relishes. It originated in America and was an invention attributed to Henry Stevens, a caterer with the New York Stadium in 1900. There may have been an allusion to the 'sausage' dog or dachshund which is roughly the same shape.

  • A diet of hot dogs, pumpkin pie and ice-cream sundaes is not good for your waistline!
  • On the pier there were all the usual side-shows, plus hot-dog, hamburger and ice-cream stands.

Note that we also have to hot dog in slang usage, possibly derived from top dog or best person, meaning to show off or perform very well in skiing or surfing:

  • If you can hot dog on two-metre-high waves, you are king!

Similarly, hot dogger (noun):

  • On Bondi Beach in Australia, we noticed that almost every wave carried a hot-dogger performing tricks - fast slides, rapid turns, cut-backs and flick-offs. They were hot-dogging for all they were worth.



hot pants

Hot pants were very brief skin-tight shorts originally worn by young women in the early 1970s in Britain - 'hot' because they looked sexy.

  • The mini skirt is back in fashion, but I don't think hot pants ever will be.



hot potato

A hot potato is a delicate or tricky situation that has to be handled with extreme care.

  • The new law is politically a hot potato for the government as many people are very unhappy with it.

As you will know, the original hot potatoes are difficult to handle when you take them out of the oven or pluck them from the barbeque fire. Care has to be taken not to drop them!




If you want to practise using some of these words look at our in the You, Me and Us part of our website. Or can you think of any more expressions using 'hot'?