MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every Friday, Heather Brown tackles some of our viewers’ burning questions. This week, she’ll tell you why hot dogs are called hot dogs, how Google and MnDOT know about traffic conditions and how Social Security numbers are assigned.

Five-year-old Harley from Pine Island asks: Why are hot dogs called hot dogs?

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According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, sausages and dachshunds were brought to the U.S. by German immigrants in the 1800s. Historians think the name probably started as a joke about the similarities between the two.

Others have suggested a famous New York cartoonist watched vendors selling “Dachshund Dogs” in the early 1900s, but since he couldn’t spell “dachshund,” he simply referred to the sausages as hot dogs. The problem with that theory, say historians, is that the cartoon has never been found.

Bill from Golden Valley wants to know: How do MNDOT and Google maps know the traffic?

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MnDOT has traffic sensors every half mile along 400 miles of freeway in the metro area. Those sensors can count cars as well as speed and are updated every 30 seconds. Google goes uses information like MnDOT’s for their maps, but according to Brian Kary, the freeway operations manager with MnDOT, Google also uses the tracking information provided by smartphones to figure out how fast we’re travelling.

For access to MnDOT’s map, click on the current traffic flow portion of its website.

Mary from Champlin asks: How are Social Security numbers assigned?

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Prior to 1972, Social Security cards were issued in local Social Security offices, so the first three numbers corresponded to the state where the card was issued. But, post-1972, all cards are processed in Baltimore, so the first three numbers correspond to the zip code listed on the application. For administrative purposes, the next two numbers go in this order: odd numbers from 01-09, even numbers from 10-99, even numbers from 02-08 and odd numbers from 11-99. The last four numbers run consecutively.

Heather Brown