Oscar Meyer or Mayer?

I think most of us grew up eating bologna, and most likely it was Oscar Mayer bologna. In fact, at 40 years old I still have to sing the Oscar Mayer commercial in my head, to spell bologna properly! But what some of us can’t seem to spell properly is Oscar’s last name. This is another Berenstein Bear case, it seems. Why do some of us insist it was always spelled M-E-Y-E-R? Is it really Oscar Meyer or Mayer?

If its not running through your head already, here is a little background music while you read on:


Oscar Meyer

Oscar Ferdinand Mayer was born in Bavaria in 1859, and arrived in the United States around 1873, when he was 14. He made his way to Chicago pretty quickly after arriving, and worked in a meat market. By the time Oscar was 24, he opened his own butcher and sausage-making shop in 1883. By 1900, through his company’s continued growth, he was delivering his meat products throughout the Chicago and suburban Chicago areas.

Checking as far back as the passenger lists of immigrants to the United States in 1873, Oscar F. Mayer was registered as such. There is no record of his name ever being spelled Meyer.

Why the Confusion?

If you’re playing the commercial above, it spells it out for us, this bologna’s second name is M-A-Y-E-R. So why is there such a large crowd who insist the spelling is M-E-Y-E-R?

Some say it’s all in the pronunciation. When we see an A-Y combination, we want to give it the long “a” sound. An E-Y combination is generally pronounced as a long “i” sound when from German origins. (I can personally vouch for this, my maiden name is Eyman, from Germany. Not pronounced “EE-man”, but “EYE-man”.) When I ran further with my example there, I learned from ancestry.com that the meaning of the “Ey” name is– “German and Dutch: variant of Aye. variant of English: a variant spelling of Eye.” Well, this is interesting… we just went into a full loop as to how AY is a variant of EY. What’s even more entertaining, is when spell-checking this article, my spellchecker marked Eyman as wrong, and listed Ayman as an alternative. Even Microsoft Word favors the AY spelling!

The following images also give some information on the origins of the name Meyer, and origins of Mayer:

Meyer Family History

Mayer Family History


As children growing up, however, how could we possibly know this in-depth information, and mistake the spelling because of word and name origins? Personally, for me, it’s as simple as remembering that cute little boy singing EY, not AY. And I can see the EY logo in my head. There is no solid conclusion as to whether the EY-ers are right or wrong on this one. But in the current reality, there is no doubt that Oscar has always spelled his second name as M-A-Y-E-R.


One Comment

  1. Ok, full confession here: I’ve eaten far more Oscar Mayer ‘weiners’ than I’d really care to admit. There was one camping trip where that was the only form of sustenance, I believe.

    But I had never considered the history of how they got their name and didn’t even think about how the founder’s name was spelled until now. I like to think I’ve had it right all this time, but now, thanks to you, I know that I’ll have it right from here on out.

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