Jimmy Dean petitions Merriam-Webster to remove bread from definition of sandwich

Illustration for article titled Jimmy Dean petitions Merriam-Webster to remove bread from definition of sandwich
Photo: pamela_d_mcadams (iStock)

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about,” wrote Oscar Wilde in The Picture Of Dorian Gray, “and that is not being talked about.” Put another way: All publicity is good publicity, even if it means you’ll end up looking like you’re desperate to get some of that sweet, sweet hot dog buzz. The “you” (or rather, the “it”) in this case is Jimmy Dean, purveyor of sausage and breakfast-related goods. Mental Floss directs ours attention to this Change.org petition, which calls on Merriam-Webster to change the definition of sandwich so that it no longer includes mention of bread.


If you’re thinking, “this has got to be some kind of marketing stunt, right?” you would be correct. By complete coincidence, this push coincides with the release of a new Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich (or “sandwich,” depending on your perspective) that forgoes any kind of bread product in favor of frittatas. Look how subtle this is, direct from the company’s press release:

“Just as we adapt and introduce new products to meet changing preferences, we felt it was only right to call on the dictionary to reevaluate the definition of a sandwich to ensure it is representative of how people eat today,” said Steve Silzer, marketing director, Jimmy Dean brand. “We believe a sandwich is still a sandwich without bread. In fact, the new Jimmy Dean Delights Egg’wich is the perfect example of a breadless sandwich where two egg frittatas hold together savory, breakfast sausage and cheese.”

“Well, golly, we have an example of such a thing right here! Who knew?

While the ploy itself smacks strongly of, “Hey, over here, we, too are a foodstuff that can be eaten in sandwich form, please pay attention to us,” it raises an interesting question re: sandwich classification and taxonomy. (We are very into sandwich classification and taxonomy.) The Merriam-Webster definition of sandwich (noun):

1a : two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between

b : one slice of bread covered with food

// Have an open-faced sandwich, with one slice of bread instead of two, mustard instead of butter, and some vegetable sticks to munch on.

— Your Health & Fitness

2 : something resembling a sandwich

especially : composite structural material consisting of layers often of high-strength facings bonded to a low strength central core

So, M-W, is an ice cream sandwich a sandwich? Is a sandwich cookie a sandwich? Does “bread” include bagels, or is a bagel a split roll? Is a wrap a sandwich? Is a tortilla bread, and if so, is a quesadilla a sandwich? If you used pancakes? What about Pop-Tarts? What about two soft pretzels? Crackers? If you took two pieces of pizza and stacked them, toppings-in, is that a sandwich?

So, Jimmy Dean, good question, even if you are being kinda thirsty about it.


Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!



If their egg thing is a sandwich, I think we can all finally agree that a hot dog is a sandwich.