Chopstick food, chopstick dining

5 thoughts on “Q&A: Why are chopsticks called chopsticks, because you can’t chop anything with them?”

  1. In the Far East a ‘chop’ is a seal or identifying mark. Those of great importance always carried their ‘chop’ with them as their ‘signature’. As they became longer and they carried more than one and were flexible to use, the opposite end was finely tapered to be used for picking up items. The style was extremely long fingernails and made it difficult to pick up items with their hands.

    I worked for some years for an Oriental firm and was given my personal ‘chop’ with my name in characters Japanese. I still use it with gold sealing wax for special events or invitations.

  2. The precise origins of chopsticks are unknown. Evidence have shown that they were definitely in use by the Shang dynasty (1766 BC – 1122 BC) and have been used throughout all of China since the Han dynasty (approximately 200 BC to 200 AD).

    The Mandarin Chinese word for chopsticks is kuàizi 筷. This is a semantic-phonetic (xíngshēng) compound with a phonetic part, 快, which means quick, and a semantic part, 竹, meaning bamboo.

    Both the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries contribute the word “chopstick” to the combination of the Chinese Pidgin English word for fast, ie. “chop chop”, and the English “stick “.

    The first use of the word was in 1699 by W. Dampier in the following paragraph from his travel log titled “A new voyage round the world (Voyages and descriptions, A voyage to New Holland)”:

    “At their ordinary eating they use two small round sticks about the length and bigness of a Tobacco-pipe. They hold them both in the right hand, one between the fore-finger and thumb; the other between the middle-finger and fore-finger..they are called by the English seamen Chopsticks.”

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