How the “sausage party” is made

As far as strong language goes, sausage party is hardly spicy. It’s a mild slang term for a social gathering in which men greatly outnumber women, usually expressed with a sense of bro-ish disappointment by its male members, er sausages. But a new adult computer-animated movie, Sausage Party, is getting a big rise out of its ham-handed innuendo.

Sausage Party follows Frank, a phallic hot dog (voiced by Seth Rogen) on a dick joke-stuffed “quest to discover the truth about his own existence.” Its theatrical release posters relish in visual gags and puns:

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Sausage Party theatrical release poster. Image from IMDb.

Another poster runs “Get your fill,” with our frisky frankfurter smacking lips with his bun-y belle. The trailer makes clear the movie doesn’t scrimp on the fixings: plenty of  fuck’s and sexual slang win this flick an “R” rating in US cinemas. 

The film also features Frank’s girlfriend, a very vaginal hotdog bun (Kristin Wiig); a lesbian character anthropomorphized as a taco (Salma Hayek); and a douche, a douche douche, who breaks his nozzle (Nick Kroll). Many younger viewers, familiar with the popular douche-nozzle pejoration, may well learn the term’s literal antecedent thanks to this comedy. The rest of the Sausage Party’s starring cast, true to its title, are men. 

So, as Sausage Party swells at the box office, let’s have a little taste of the history of the term. The earliest sausage parties, of course, were actual sausage parties: dinners and cookouts that served the meat. Still, the references can bring some chuckles to the modern reader.

English writer W. Blanchard Jerrold’s 1848 The Disgrace to the Family: A Story of Social Distinctions includes a chapter called “Mrs. Grumblebum’s Sausage Party.” In it, the titular character enjoys “a sausage-dinner with a very select dinner party.” The chapter even opens with the perfect setup for some profanity:  “The heading of this chapter will give the reader a presentiment of some vulgar details upon a very vulgar subject…” But alas, the payoff is not a dick joke: It’s “eating,” Jerrold reveals.

In her 1898 Four-footed Americans and their Kin, a sort of georgic novel, American author Mabel Osgood Wright also provides some laughs: “a sausage party is great fun, with dogs for the company…Dogs are crazy about sausages. Ours always lick their lips whenever Manny Bun cooks any.”

Sausage parties throughout the twentieth century refer to various local social traditions, behaving much like a weenie roast or barbecue today. A 1922 Lyre of Alpha Chi Omega mentions an annual sausage party its sorority held in February. London’s Punch notes in 1936 that Mayfair held its first sausage party. The North Dakota legislature made sure to record its gratitude for its biennial sausage party in 1971. And a 1989 Swiss Scene observes the challenge of keeping the sausage party tradition in a changing cultural landscape.

It’s unclear if any de facto sausage party is responsible for the slang term. One could imagine an actual sausage party, say, a university grill-out, inspiring the lingo. But sausage (and its many related forms, like “pork sausage”) has long been slang for “penis,” so its attributive use with party seems just as likely. (For more penis slang, enjoy our very own Jonathon Green‘s timeline on the term. Green even notches a colorful “yoghurt-spitting sausage” in 2012.)

And  sausage party has its competitors, such as sausage fest, meat market, and weenie roastSausage party, at least according to my all-too-surface analysis, beats out sausage fest, while weenie roast appears to prevail as a name for actual hot dog-serving cookouts – and perhaps because party-going dudes would feel emasculated if they joked about showing up at a weenie roast. More piquant varietals include cock fest and dick fest

Whatever the case, sausage party seems to bend towards its slang usage in the 1990s. One early citation – in a 1999 Bureau of National Affairs Fair Employment Practice Cases – concerns harassment in the workplace, with an employee making homophobic statements about a coworker having a “sausage party.” Sausage party seems squeezed into its current lexical casing come the early 2000s. In 2002, Professor Connie Eble included it in her long-running Campus Slang: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill lists. Urban Dictionary enters sausage party by spring of 2003. A 2004 slang guide, Turd Ferguson & the Sausage Party, defined the term for incoming college students. And a 2010 novelty website, called Sausage Party, once measured the expected “sausageocity” of an upcoming Facebook event. 

Now, with the popular and critical success of Sausage Party, we should expect sausage party to fully bust out of its frat-house bro-talk and penetrate the mainstream.

8 thoughts on “How the “sausage party” is made

  1. Grumpy Axolotl August 24, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    I’ve never heard the term sausage-party before, but often sausage-fest to mean the same thing.

    Like

  2. Melanie August 25, 2016 / 5:56 am

    Funny that sources like Urban Dictionary didn’t list it until 2000s. It was a common vernacular reference in my experience some 25 years ago, describing not just literal parties parties but also any other situation (including classrooms) where the attendees were predominantly men. I first heard it when I was entering college in Northern New Hampshire in the early 1990s.

    Like

    • John Kelly August 25, 2016 / 12:32 pm

      This is great information, Melanie! Do you have citations from back in the 1990s? Very curious.

      Like

  3. Keith August 25, 2016 / 7:51 am

    “as Sausage Party swells as the box office” should perhaps be “as Sausage Party swells at the box office”

    Two links point to Apple’s website, instead of to Punch and to the North Dakota legislature.

    Punch’s reference to Mayfair’s “first sausage party” might just be a reference to the lowering of social standards or the relaxing of etiquette. Punch is above all an irreverent humorous magazine.

    Like

    • John Kelly August 25, 2016 / 12:32 pm

      Thanks for informing about the links, Keith, as well as for the additional insights into Punch. Had the sense that Punch had some ridicule on its tongue.

      Like

    • Nancy Friedman August 25, 2016 / 2:14 pm

      Fixed the typo! — N.F.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mezza September 16, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    My favourite varietal I heard on a Triple J Hottest 100 broadcast in Australia a couple of years ago. The presenter was remarking on the gender balance of artists on the chart, saying: “it’s been a bit of a cock forest so far”.

    Liked by 1 person

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