Sandwich: What’s in a Name? Grinder, Hoagie, Hero, Wedge…

Wait…What’s a Wedge?

Of all the food pairings that work beautifully with Blossom Water, I have to say that the sandwich is my favorite. So incredibly versatile and handy (the sandwich was invented for the Earl of Sandwich who wanted easy finger food so he could keep both hands busy gambling) the sandwich can be sweet or savory, cold or grilled, open-faced of triple-deckered. But where did it get such crazy nicknames? Grinder. Hoagie. Hero. Sub. Wedge. Torpedo. Blimpie…

I went to Nardelli’s, a famous Connecticut Italian grinder shoppe (their spelling) since 1922, to find out about the Grinder. The man who looked like he owned the place was wearing a t-shirt that read: “I’m Italian! We Don’t Do the Keep Calm Thing.” It was lunchtime and the place was hopping. He was true to his shirt’s saying, though he looked very happy, as did his customers. I got my grinder – a veggie with provolone, roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, cucumbers, marinated mushrooms, oil and vinegar, etc – which was amazing, and sat down outside to question happy lunchers as they left the establishment.

“Why do you suppose it’s called a grinder?” I asked. The answers I got were pretty much along these lines: “No idea, good though,” shrugged shoulders, “Notta clue,” “Grmmmm…hmmmm,” (this guy’s mouth was full) and “Huh…don’t know.” I wish the not-calm guy had time for a quick question, but I had to resort to Chef Google.

Bon Appétit gives us: “Grinder” shares some flimsy nautical roots with the sub–some claim that it was named for “grinders,” Italian-American slang for dockworkers (who were often sanding and grinding rusty hulls to repaint them)–but the more widely attested origin is about the sandiwch itself. Subs, with their Italian bread and piles of fixings, were harder to chew through than your typical ham and cheese on white bread. That toothsomeness got translated into “grinder,” since that’s what your teeth had to do to get through a bite.

The Thrillist gives a funny description of sandwich names in “Where You’re From, According To What You Call A Sub Sandwich.” Here are my favorites:

Hoagie: A hoagie is a big-city sandwich, according to you, and is usually filled with some dyed-in-the-wool Italian fixings like prosciutto, soppressata, Provolone, or… scrapple (and NEVER mayo). You’re adamant that the hoagie was invented in Philly, just like liberty, even though both have actually been traced to Italy, sometime in the last couple of millennia. [I respectfully disagree. I’m from Michigan, famous for hoagies, heroes, and Michigans – which is a kind of hot dog.]

Hero: The story of how the term “hero” came to be might have eluded you (it’s not actually a corruption of the word “gyro”, which most likely came to the US via the Greek food boom that originated in… Chicago?!)…The hero is probably the most versatile sub name on this list, coming in hot and cold varieties, and encompassing a breadth of fillings (corned beef, meatballs, pork cheek, etc.) that could only be found in the best city on Earth! Which, if that needs any more elucidating, is New York. Sheesh.

Grinder: If you now live anywhere other than where you grew up (New England), you frequently get made fun of for saying weird stuff like “bubbler”…Grinder day was your favorite school lunch day in junior high, and inevitably meant either meatballs or some other hot sandwich that was equally tough to bite into (hence the name). Sometimes you gripe about the difference between cold “subs” and hot “grinders”, but nobody in your current city can understand a word you’re saying. (

We almost forgot the Wedge! Wikipedia to the rescue:
The term “wedge” is used in Westchester County, New York, Putnam County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut—three counties directly north of New York City.

Some base the name “wedge” on a diagonal cut in the middle of the sandwich, creating two halves or “wedges”, or a “wedge” cut out of the top half of the bread with the fillings “wedged” in between, or a sandwich that is served between two “wedges” of bread. It has also been said “wedge” is just short for “sandwich”, with the name having originated from an Italian deli owner located in Yonkers, who got tired of saying the whole word.(

Wikipedia also gives a great list of American sandwiches. Don’t look at it before lunch though, it also has photos. Oh, and no matter what you call it, you’ll want to wash these babies down with Blossom Water.