chow, 1847

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Oct 27 23:40:46 UTC 2005

The non-repeated "chow" seems not to be recorded as an army and navy term till soon after the Spanish-American War.


George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: George Thompson
Subject: chow, 1847

This is kind of neat. HDAS & OED has 1856 for "chow" = food.

THE CHINESE JUNK. [a long description; anchored off Staten
Island, will be brought to Castle Garden; owned by Captain
Kellett] . . . we accepted Capt. Kellett's invitation to a little Chow-
Chow (chaw-chaw, dinner) with him. The dinner, though served on board
the junk, was not composed of Chinese dishes, not a single rat or joint
of a young puppy being on the table.
New-York Daily Tribune, July 12, 1847, p. 2, col. 5

OED: 2. Pidgin-English and slang. Food, or a meal, of any kind. Also
spec. = CHOW-CHOW 1. Also attrib. This sense is supposed to be due to
the use of the chow (‘the edible dog of China’) as food by poor
Chinese. [1856 Spirit of Age (Sacramento) 27 Nov. 2/2 Ah Chowah in the
Celestial lingo means Mr, Chow something good to eat.] 1886 YULE &
BURNELL Hobson-Jobson 164/2 Chow is in ‘pigeon’ applied to food of any
kind. 1892 D. SLADEN Japs at Home iv. 45 More chow..had been laid at
our feet... This time it was..a sort of custard soup containing chicken


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.


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