What’s In A Name?

best-sub-sandwichesIn Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, his family and her family hate each other. But Juliet tells Romeo that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In modern English she might have said, “I don’t care what your family name is; it doesn’t change who you are.”

Names may not change what something is, but names often tell us a lot about the thing we’re talking about. That’s true about sandwich names, which often tell us not only what’s in the sandwich, but also something about its history.

The sandwich – two pieces of bread with meat, cheese, or other foods in between, usually eaten by hand – was named after John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), a nobleman of the historic town of Sandwich in England. Montague loved to gamble (trying to win money by playing games) and once spent 24 hours at the gambling table eating nothing but some pieces of cold beef between two pieces of bread.

In the U.S., the submarine (see photo) is a popular sandwich. Its name comes from the shape of the roll (the bread), which is similar to the shape of a submarine (a ship that travels under water). In a submarine sandwich, the long roll is sliced (cut) the long way and often has a thick crust (skin; outer layer).

Submarine sandwiches probably began among Italian Americans in the northeast part of the country in the early 1900s. The roll was filled with cold cuts (thin pieces of cold meats), cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and a variety of condiments (spices and other things added for flavor). Since 1965, Subway sandwich shops have helped the submarine sandwich, or “sub,” become popular in many other countries.

When you travel around the U.S., you’ll find sandwiches that look like subs but go by (use) different names. In New York and New Jersey, for example, a sub-like sandwich called a “hero” is popular. Heros are similar to the subs described earlier, but you’ll also find them filled with eggplant or chicken with Parmesan cheese or meatballs. It’s uncertain how heros got their name, but some think it’s because they were extra large.

Hoagie” sandwiches come from Philadelphia. Like most sandwich names, we’re not sure how the name hoagie started. It probably comes from the sandwiches eaten by the ship workers on Hog Island near Philadelphia. Their sandwiches, with various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread, became known as Hog Island sandwiches, then hoggies, and finally, since about 1940, hoagies. In 1992, the hoagie was named the official sandwich of Philadelphia.

Subs, heros, and hoagies all have an Italian flavor, but if you go to New Orleans you’ll find a French American sandwich called the “po’ boy” (poor boy). Po’ boys are made on French bread rolls similar to baguettes and can be filled with fried oysters, shrimp, and fish as well as other meats. The sandwiches and the name po’ boy probably appeared sometime around 1930 when the Martin brothers made and sold sandwiches for just a few pennies each at the back door of their restaurant to streetcar workers – called “poor boys” – who had lost their jobs.

These sandwiches are all similar because of their shape. Do you have similarly-shaped sandwiches where you live? What are they called? And what’s in them?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo from Fast Food Menu Prices.

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13 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    I don’t know why, maybe it’s due to the fact that I stopped eating meat, but I haven’t had a sandwich for a long time. I just eat bread and some of my colleagues call that the “sad sandwich” haha!
    My favorite is during the summer having simply bread with a sliced tomato some olive oil and salt. Simple but really good.

    Lately, at the workplace, I am eating more peanuts with a piece of fruit. I love those mixed together.
    As a vegetarian I need those proteins, I guess.

    Sorry I can’t help with the name of sandwiches, which I am sure there are many.
    It just is that I really have a simple diet and am not much of a eater.
    That’s why compared to a few of my colleagues, and even younger, I have no belly.


  2. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    That’s a beautiful story about sandwich. How many things we don’t know simply because no one has told us. How much infromation was hidden behing a well known snack. Thanks Warren for the opportunity. Jeff, Lucy and you make up a great team.

  3. Tania says:


    If it would be only condiments in sandwiches…
    What’s in them? What is in the food we buy? Many, many additives and preservatives.
    Jeff says in English Cafe 541 , what can we do with foods and their adulteration, and misbranding?
    I think we have a misbranding at many foods.

    Are you in reading the food labels?

    Thank you for all sandwich names.

  4. Dan says:

    Hi me again.

    When I am working the early shift like this week, on my way to work I stop by
    to a bakery and get something fresh to eat.
    The quality is excellent.
    This morning just to make my bread little less sad I purchased a kind of bread with seeds on it. That way it tastes of something. It was good.


  5. Kayvan says:

    In Iran also there are different sandwiches that called by different names. Most sandwiches are made with sausage and hamburger.
    Every shop give its sandwich a special name and its customers call them (Actually when they want to order, they try find the name in the menu) by that name.

  6. Dan says:


    I was thinking that technically my sad sandwich it’s not even a sandwich.
    It’s just bread. Probably to be promoted a sandwich there must be something in the middle, right?
    BTW I also like the one with Nutella, especially in the morning As a breakfast. Very energetic one.


  7. peter says:

    Hi Warren,
    I was avoiding them, and reading your tasty post made me want them.:)
    The thing is, I have been trying hard to wean myself off sandwiches, as I m a true sandwich lover, in particularly , foot long meatball subs.
    You know , there is this subway joint right down the street from where I live.
    Going back from work , every night, I walk around the block to avoid the chain restaurant.
    U know , subway is a poplar chain restaurant serving a wide variety of sandwiches. They are very popular around here. I guess, one of the reason they have gained in popularity is the fact that the theme of the restaurant promote healthy eating. At least , it gives off the vibe.i mean , a healthy vibe.
    Why is that ?
    Well, people mostly associate subway restaurant with lots of vegetables.
    And , typically vegetables project health , and life longevity In people’s mind.
    U know , the first thing u notice when u Enter the parlour is a line of different types of fresh looking vegetables , Hard Cheese and colourful sauces.
    Well , it is all about the sauce you use for ur sandwich because there is some sort of combination of sauces tailored to each sandwich u make.
    There are just a handful of sauces but the key is what combination to put them on what sandwich and how much!
    Fie example there is this rich orangish sauce that goes very well with meat ball subs. Well , of course , you agree with me that meat ball sub , become the meat ball sub for a long line of mayo u splat on top of the orangish rich sauce. It is all about the sauce combinations folks. It is all about the combinations.
    Yup , u heard me right , you yourself make the sandwiches. Well , it is not like that u yourself go behind the counter and knead the though then when the bread is baked you put the meat and vegetables in .
    You have the choice of vegetables , sauce , and cheese right there in front of you. U just simply ask the sandwich wrapper people at the station what you want with which.
    Yam !!!

    You know , interestingly enough , subway franchise’s core product is in fact submarine sandwiches. Well, they offer other stuff too depending on the time at which u hit the restaurant: for breakfast , lunch , or dinner.you can get snacks in there too.
    However , people associate the parlour mostly with subs.
    As a matter of fact , I think subways is an American franchise. I mean it started from there and then glutted around the globe :)))))
    I m telling you , it is a fast growing franchise.
    Talk about resolution in full swing.:))
    Seems like today , I m in to break the last one which is avoiding subways’ restaurant.
    Meatballs , here I come.

    Well , some of my friends had one month in the pool.some just one week.:))


  8. emiliano says:

    Happy new year Lili, here in Madrid Chinese people are doing a huge feast.
    Is it The Monkey year?
    I think so, and again A Happy New Year for you and your family, even the
    same for all the Chinese people who read this blog.


  9. Pete says:

    Guys ,
    If anything , I m a footie
    I am a meat lover.
    The post today made me quite hungry:)

    A belated happy New year to you.

    All the best


  10. Pete says:

    “Make my bread little less sad “:)))

    You r funny Dan


  11. Pete says:

    Dear Warren.
    As u may notice by know , I follow blog posts and participate in the associate blog discussions religiously.
    I always find your blog posts educational and cool.

    I give them two thumbs up



  12. Dan says:

    Hey guys.

    This morning at the usually bakery I purchased a heart shaped sweet made out of phyllo dough.
    It was quite large and really tasty.
    That was supposed to be given to my love for Valentine’s day, but I haven’t a lover so, you know, I had to eat all of it myself.
    This is the life of a single.


  13. Pete says:

    Hey Dan,

    I feel for u bro
    I m flying solo too


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