45 Comments

  1. I think the problem here may be uncertainty about the value of money in an old strip — they are basically skint, they can’t afford to eat a “real meal”; the joke, such as it is, is that they nevertheless pretend that where they eat is in fact a proper, real meal eating establishment. The sign on the cart is a sort of misguided attempt to further the conceit, in that the hot dog vendor is also trying to blur the line that a hot dog is not a “proper” meal — it is a “loaf” of bread (a hot dog bun is a self contained unit of bread, is it not? Why “bun” and not “loaf”?), and a pound (!) of “meat”.

    “Hey come on, it’s good enough for piecework, I gotta churn out seven of these a week, it’s just a comic, it’s not fine art! Move along now…”

  2. Thanks, larK, that is quite helpful.
    Although I can see a bun getting called a loaf, modern standards of truth-in-advertising would have a hard time with any use of a measure that was inaccurate, here “pound”. But maybe they could do that then.

    Reminder: You gets no bread with one meat-ball!

  3. I agree with larK. It’s difficult to assess what value 30 cents had at the time the strip was written. I’m guessing not much. “Compliments to the chef” is a phrase normally associated with high end eateries.

  4. The copyright date is 1960; those 30 cents would be worth about $2.73 today.

    Unless Smith drew Mutt and Jeff as a period piece, meaning the setting was earlier in the century, in which case those 30 cents would go a lot further.

  5. “1960? Whenever I think of Mutt and Jeff, which admittedly is not often, I think of it as a product of the 1920’s or 1930’s.”

    It was a classic zombie strip. It’s heyday was the teens but it zombied on for decades.

    The 30 cents sort of threw me as in the 20 or 30s (or in my case teens) 30 cents would not be in significantly much, but it’d be enough for a cheap meal at a diner.

    I can’t really make any sense of the “loaf of bread and a pound of meat” comment though.

  6. Or in full, “A loaf of bread and a pound of meat and all the mustard you can eat.” This was the first I’ve ever heard of that particular ball-park cry and I’m a geezer. I do remember “Get your red-hots here!” so if that were written on the sign I’d recognize it, but it would hardly help the joke. But at least I wouldn’t spend time trying to figure it out like I did.

  7. I thinking part of the intended joke is that Jeff has 30¢ and Mutt is contributing nothing. This strip has (had) a tendency to clumsily shoehorn two or more old jokes into one strip, blurring the point so neither of them quite land.

    If Mutt had said, “Let’s pool our money. How much have you got?”, then the hot dog stand would have worked as a punchline. If the strip simply began with the hot dog stand and ended with “Our compliments to the chef”, then we’d have the joke of pretense. Instead we get a mashup.

    The sign on the hot dog stand can be taken as a third joke. They’re clearly not getting a loaf of bread each, and it’s not likely the meat weighs in at a pound.

  8. D McKeon’s reference to this as a cry of old makes it make sense to me: yes, they’re acting like this el cheapo, bottom-of-the-line meal is a gourmet experience. The fact that 30 cents and the loaf/pound thing are anachronistic to us makes it hella confusing.

    Now it’s not a CIDU, just a very weak joke–which that strip seemed to specialize in.

  9. Sometimes I’m too literal for this world.

    I had never heard the vendor cry but if I had, I simply would not ever be able to reconcile that a hot dog is not and never has been a pound of meat.

  10. “which is obviously over-stated puffery” — at the Minnesota State Fair, all of the “Foot-Long Hot Dog” stands have the words “About a” (in small typeface) preceding the “Foot-Long” — legend has it that someone once measured, found a dog a half-inch or so short of a foot, and threatened to sue for false advertising, etc. etc.

    However, there’s at least one stand that advertises a “Mile-Long Hot Dog,” and doesn’t modify that startling claim; presumably they feel secure in that even the most literal-minded hypothetical jury would recognize that as over-stated puffery for humorous effect.

  11. D McKeon, why does your phrase obviously over-stated puffery, seem so familiar? Was it part of an historic court ruling?

  12. Shrug: While my first reaction was that that (legendary?) foot-long lawsuit sounds ridiculous, on further reflection I’m not sure that it really is. After all, “foot-long” isn’t obvious puffery – it’s quite reasonable to think that when you buy a foot-long hot dog, it will be a foot long. If the grocery store was consistently selling 0.95 pounds of meat as 1.0 pounds of meat, I would think it reasonable for them to lose a lawsuit over that.

    If the hot dogs were on average a foot long, but some were a little shorter or a little longer, that’s one thing. But if they’re consistently a half-inch short of a foot, that’s another.

  13. I thought I recalled someone suing McDonald’s after weighing the quarter-pounder and finding it wanting. So now they put “pre-cooked weight” disclaimers. I was unable to find evidence of that.

  14. I can understand some puffery such as the mile-long hot dog or a metric ton hot dog. But I have a hard time understanding “a pound of meat”. And I don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t assume a foot long hot dog was indeed a foot long.

  15. woozy: The real question comes under what a “reasonable man” would expect. Can you successfully sue over a “mile-high sundae” that (surprise) isn’t? Presumably not.

    A real foot-long hotdog would be VERY long, and probably would not prevail. See
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-subway-decision-footlong/worthless-subway-footlong-sandwich-settlement-is-thrown-out-u-s-court-idUSKCN1B52H6

    Part of it, I expect, relates to actual damages: you can see the damned hot dog or sub before you buy it, and there’s no particular value associated with expecting it to be a foot long. If I sell you a footlong ruler that’s 11″, well, there is a purpose to it being a foot long, right?

    And of course YMMV depending on the court, judge, phase of the moon, etc.

  16. P.S. IANAL but I considered it and have friends who are, and have discussed things like this with them. Which makes me that most dangerous of creatures, a clever sheep.

  17. Apologies for both this and the repeated posts: woozy, you mentioned “mile-long”, which probably informed my choice of “mile-high sundae” but I hadn’t taken it in. In my defense (!) I’m suffering from Benign Positional Vertigo today, feel like I’m severely hung over and am thus not functioning at my usual 93% (and yes, probably should step away from the keyboard).

  18. Then…. I guess I don’t understand why they would say it is a foot-long. I just don’t get that idea of puffery. What’s it supposed to mean except that you are bragging about how long it is? And if you are bragging about something by saying it is something it’s not, isn’t that just lying? I mean, sure, bragging can involve bravado and jokes and self-egrandizing– all other forms of technical dishonesty– but… saying your hot dog is a foot long or has a pound of meat is none of those things. It’s just saying something that’s demonstrably not true. If we aren’t expected to believe it then how are was supposed to interpret it?

    I’m too literal for this world.

  19. “I’m suffering from Benign Positional Vertigo today, feel like I’m severely hung over ”

    Ah, this would explain why you have enormous difficulty in the comparatively simple act of perchin’.

  20. I agree with woozy, this doesn’t seem like “puffery.” A foot is a specific amount of hot dog, and if you’re promised that amount, it’s reasonable to expect that amount.

    It seems to me that the particular value of it being a foot long is that you get a foot length of hot dog. The fact that you can see it before you buy it doesn’t seem like a particularly strong defense. If the grocery store sold me 0.95 pounds of meat, and claimed that it was 1.0 pounds of meat, would anyone think it was a defense that I could see the meat first?

    On the other hand, woozy, I do think that a “reasonable person” would expect that there was some variation in hot dog sizes, so that some hot dogs might be slightly larger or smaller than a foot. (Curiously, it turns out that a “reasonable person” almost always has the same expectations as me.)

    I would read the Subway lawsuit as a fact-specific dismissal, rather than meaning “who cares if you really get a foot?” Most Subway sandwiches were indeed a foot long, but due to variability in the baking process, some ended up being slightly less – usually less than a quarter of an inch – without affecting the amount of food that the customer would get.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericgoldman/2016/02/29/why-the-subway-footlong-lawsuits-fell-short/?sh=2565756369f2

  21. Just to weigh in on the legal discussion, in the case of advertising, there are specific laws requiring truth in advertising; this would not just be a generic lawsuit, with you having to prove damages, and what a reasonable person would expect, and all that — this would be enforcement of the very specific requirements of the various truth in advertising laws, of which there are federal and state and other varieties. Puffery is generally considered a subjective claim, like “the best hot dog”, and not a violation of these laws, but if you have an objective claim, like “1 pound hot dog”, then this claim has to be true and non-deceptive.

  22. “On the other hand, woozy, I do think that a “reasonable person” would expect that there was some variation in hot dog sizes, so that some hot dogs might be slightly larger or smaller than a foot.”

    I’m okay with that. I’m even okay with footlong always being 10 inches (although that is in my mind chicken-sh!t… just as the 14 oz. and 28 oz ice cream tubs are— true, they don’t claim to be “pints” and “quarts” but….).

    What I don’t really get is when it isn’t a foot long and you aren’t meant to think it is. It’s just a phrase like “minty fresh” or “wholesome” or “I swear to you if elected….”. But I don’t get it. “foot long” has no puffery other than “it is 12 inches long”. How is it supposed to puff if that just isn’t even meant to be misleading.

  23. Shrug: Perfect! Wonder if that was in the back of [what was left of] my mind, since it’s so apt.
    larK: Truth in advertising, yeah, might apply. But I suspect it’s vague enough (as someone else asked, “Whose foot?”) that it gets a pass.
    Winter Wallaby: The difference between 0.95lb of meat sold as 1.00 and a footlong that isn’t is that the average person CAN tell that an 8″ hot dog is not a foot long. At least, that would be how I’d defend that.

    Given that footlong hot dogs have been around for a while and are never a foot long, this has presumably been dealt with in the courts already (you’d think?)

  24. Phil: I doubt that the average person can tell that an 8″ hot dog behind a glass counter, and probably at some distance away, is not a foot long. But even accepting this argument, it gives you the somewhat anomalous result that 8″ hot dogs are OK, but 11 1/2″ hot dogs are not, since the average person certainly can’t tell from looking that the hot dog it 1/2″ short.

    Never say never: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g45963-d3208690-i135018565-Foot_Long_Hot_Dog-Las_Vegas_Nevada.html

  25. Phil: Truth in advertising works on objective vs subjective, with subjective claims being given a pass. Also, even technically true claims can run afoul of these laws if they are nevertheless determined to be deceptive, so the argument of “my foot, which is 5 inches long”, while technically true, would clearly be deceptive.

  26. ” But even accepting this argument, it gives you the somewhat anomalous result that 8″ hot dogs are OK”

    But no one calls an 8″ hot dog a “foot long” though. That’d be like claiming a hot dog has a pound of meat and …. oh… right……

  27. There was a bakery near here, now out of business, that advertised on the sign out front “Home of the Mile High Apple Pie.” If they ever did have a mile high apple pie I’m sure I would have noticed, and probably could have seen it from my house.

  28. I like hotdogs, but in spite of the article I don’t care for beef ones. I grew up on Oscar Mayer wieners, which WERE mostly pork (the beef ones are labeled frankfurters). These days the OM wieners are mostly chicken, so I avoid them as they are squishy and bland. I seek out natural-casing pork dogs for those times when I get a taste for them.

  29. @Mark in Boston: I was just about to ask you if you lived in Denver, before I realized that would be a stupid question due to your username.

    In Denver, they could advertise any pie as a mile high. (“We didn’t say the pie was a mile TALL, we said it was a mile HIGH.”)

  30. How big is a “loaf” of a bread?

    I know when I buy bread now the Wonderbread and the Walmart brand of bread are probably about the same size – but If I walk into the Stop and Shop next door to the main Walmart we go to – their house brand of bread is a little more than half the size of the other two breads. Unsliced bread varies even more in size as does other than white breads.

    So, a hot dog bun, unsliced for the hot dog could be continued a “loaf” of bread.

    As to a pound of meat – well, it would be have to be a rather large hot dog to be same – and is that the precooking weight (as is commonly used now in designations such as 1/4 pound burger) or the cooked weight? And if it is the hotdog how much of the “meat” is meat and how much is filler?

    (BTW – will not be buying Wonder bread again – the last several loaves we have bought turned moldy even before the “best by” date and testing with the ends of the Stop & shop bread it has gone through two cycles of bread without the ends getting moldy.)

  31. And it turns out the idea of a cranky lawsuuit over 11-inch footlongs is something of a commonplace!

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