In his article on the auction of sports memorabilia belonging to pioneering stadium concessionaire Harry M. Stevens {"Getcher Red-Hot Memorabilia Right Here," Sports, April 12}, Leonard Shapiro recounted how Stevens may have been the first to peddle a sausage in a bun at a ballpark, but cartoonist Thomas A. "Tad" Dorgan was the one who dubbed this delicacy a "hot dog."

Were that Dorgan's only claim to etymological immortality, it would be impressive enough, but Dorgan in fact coined a host of expressions that became indelible parts of the American idiom. He was without peer as a creator of what W. C. Fields would have called euphonious appellations, and even so august a scholar of our native tongue as H. L. Mencken readily credited Dorgan with being among the most prolific "coiners of neologisms" at the beginning of this century. When Dorgan died in 1929, the New York Herald Tribune editorialized: "More than any other newspa\perman . . . , he influenced the speech of millions of Americans."

Among the expressions and words that Dorgan generally is credited with either creating or popularizing:

"Dumbbell" (a stupid person).

"For crying out loud!" (an exclamation of astonishment).

"Cat's meow" and "cat's pajamas" (as superlatives).

"Applesauce" (nonsense).

"Cheaters" (eyeglasses).

"Skimmer" (a hat).

"Hard-boiled" (a tough person).

"Drugstore cowboy" (loafers or ladies' men).

"Nickel-nurser" (a miser).

"Good-night, nurse!" (an expression of woe).

"As busy as a one-armed paper hanger" (overworked).

"Yes, we have no bananas" (which became a popular song).

"Twenty-three skiddoo" (an exclamation in the 1920s). Dorgan was born in San Francisco in 1877. He began his career on the old San Francisco Bulletin, where his work caught the eye of Arthur Brisbane, then the most powerful editor employed by William Randolph Hearst. Hearst hired Dorgan to be a sports cartoonist for the old New York Journal in 1902. There Dorgan not only drew regular sports cartoons but also comic strips (some samples are shown here, along with a self-portrait), and served as an incisive sportswriter as well -- "the greatest authority in boxing," in the opinion of Jack Dempsey, no less.

Along with George Ade and Ring Lander, Dorgan was recognized as one of the principal exponents of early 20th-century slang. In 1933, S. J. Funk of the Funk and Wagnalls dictionary company placed Dorgan at the top of the list of the 10 "most fecund makers of American slang," an accolade Mencken repeated in his landmark book, "The American Language."

Dorgan evidently inspired immense affection among his colleagues and professional peers. Former heavyweight champion James J. Corbett characterized Dorgan's death as "the toughest blow I ever got in my life," and tributes also poured in from New York Giants manager (and old Baltimore Oriole) John J. McGraw, New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and such now-legendary cartoonists as Winsor McCay, George McManus, Cliff Sterrett and Russ Westover. Although Dorgan spent the last 25 years of his life in New York, when he died San Francisco's Mayor James Rolph Jr. ordered all of the city's flags flown at half-staff on the day of his funeral. Not everyone, however, loved Dorgan's most famous piece of slang. In 1913, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce sought unsuccessfully to ban the use of "hot dog" on vendor signs, fearing perpetuation of an old calumny that these wonderfully inexpensive sausages actually contained dog meat. But to most people, "hot dog" seemed especially apt, and hot dogs they have remained. Franklin Roosevelt served them to the King and Queen of England in 1939 -- and Coney Island ultimately relented, celebrating a National Hot Dog Day there the same year. (Milton Berle was the master of ceremonies.)

"All slang is metaphor," wrote G. K. Chesterton, "and all metaphor is poetry." At a ballpark or a back-yard barbecue, few things are more poetic than a hot dog. (With mustard or ketchup, as you prefer.) Neil A. Grauer is the author of "Remember Laughter; A Life of James Thurber."