Hephaestus's Blog

Word of the Month: Chopsticks
February 2, 2015, 08:00
Filed under: Uncategorized

Etymology:  English, sailors’ partial translation of Chinese k’wai tse, variously given as “fast ones” or “nimble boys,” first element from pidgin English chop, from Cantonese kap“urgent.” (etymonline.com) (Actual Mandarin Chinese is kuàizi, 筷子)

Definition: If you don’t know what chopsticks are, go to a Chinese restaurant.


Chopsticks were invented in China more than three thousand years ago. The oldest chopsticks in existence are six bronze examples at least 3200 years old. They seem to have been invented as cooking tools, and only became dining utensils around 400 B.C.E. or so. Prior to this, the Chinese actually used forks and knives, but when Confucius condemned the use of knives in dining for its violent overtones, the ascendance of chopsticks in Asia became assured. Japan, along with Korea and Vietnam, adopted chopsticks by about the sixth century.


In the West, we commonly associate chopsticks with Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Many of us find it difficult or impossible to use them, but if you can master the skill, they are a very efficient and efficacious eating utensil.

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