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chow

Printable Version Pronunciation: chæw Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (US Slang) Food. 2. (Australian slur) Derogatory name for Chinese. 3. Breed of Chinese dog resembling a Pomeranian (also Chow-Chow).

Notes: This odd little word has a rather shady history, but today it is an acceptable if slangy word for "food" in the US. It may also be used as a popular verb in the US military with the verbal particle down, to get in the chow line to chow down.

In Play: Keep in mind that this word is slang, to be used in colloquial conversation only: "Hey, mom, I've been raking leaves all morning and need a little chow before I can go on." Chow is such slang that it has avoided figurative use altogether—until now: "Chick Pease reads comic books all the time; he calls them 'chow for the mind'."

Word History: Today's word is a reduction of chow-chow, a fruit or vegetable relish originating in China. Chow was already being used as a slang synonym for "food" in 1856 out in California. Chow-chow is a reduplication of Mandarin Chinese tsa "mix, mixed", and refers to the mixed food in chow-chow. The dog breed of the same name dates from 1886. Some suggest a link to a Chinese tendency to see dogs as edible; however, it might just as well have come from the Chinese word gou "dog". (We are always happy when Chris Stewart of Johannesburg feeds us excellent Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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