Q: It wasn’t until I moved “abroad” that I discovered everybody outside of Texas calls a corny dog a corn dog. What gives?
Brock Hyland, Little Rock, Arkansas
A: Texan, as we call the native tongue of our state, is replete with idiosyncrasies. We say “fixin’ to” to mean “preparing to.” We say “tump over” to mean “tip over.” We deploy “y’all” more than other folks do, as well as “howdy” and “reckon.”
And yes, all fluent Texans call corny dogs corny dogs. Why? Because that’s what they’ve been called almost since the time they were conceived by Neil and Carl Fletcher at the State Fair of Texas, back in the early forties. After a couple of false starts involving “K-9s,” “brown bombers,” “french fried hot dogs,” and “meals on sticks,” the brothers, whose descendants sell half a million Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs during the fair each year, settled on “corny dog” as the name for this wonder of skewered, battered, and fried weenerie.
So why doesn’t the rest of the country call corny dogs corny dogs? Well, the Texanist reckons it’s because other Americans’ parlances simply lack the linguistic luster of the Texas tongue, which has given the world such memorable phraseologies as “all hat and no cattle,” “Bloody Mary mornin’,” and “alright alright alright.” Hey, speaking of enlivened tongues, the Texanist is a strict mustard man and has never really understood the ketchup crowd. But then, the Texanist is also a strict live-and-let-live man, so bon appétit, y’all!
Q: This year I planted three jalapeño varieties in my salsa garden, and one of them grew Carolina Reapers! How could such a thing happen?
Cassandra Noonan Fortson, Austin
A: It’s a well-known fact that Texans are devotees of spicy foods. We have, after all, not one but two official state peppers, those being the workhorse jalapeño and our state native pepper, the chiltepin, a.k.a. “the mother of all peppers.”
Thus it’s little surprise, Ms. Fortson, that you are versed enough in piquant plants to quickly recognize something amiss in the pepper patch. And you were not alone. This summer gardeners across the country fell victim to #peppergate, a mix-up brought about by seed suppliers mislabeling some of their stock. You experienced an extreme version of this phenomenon. The Carolina Reaper isn’t, after all, just any old pepper; it’s the world’s hottest pepper, a thousand times hotter than a jalapeño.
So what does one do when life gives you super-spicy peppers? Well, you could try making a pot of the world’s hottest super-spicy chili or a pitcher of the world’s hottest super-spicy margaritas or a dish of the world’s hottest
super-spicy salsa. But if you’re not feeling quite that daring, then the Texanist would advise plucking that interloping pepper plant and tossing it onto what would surely be the world’s hottest super-spicy compost heap.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.
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