• chopstick •
chahp-stik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A pencil-thin stick used in pairs in China and Japan for eating. 2. (Chopsticks) a two-fingered or four-handed piano composition, played by some who cannot play the piano otherwise. 3. A cross-stick attached to a fishing line from which shorter lines with hooks hang.
Notes: We seldom hear the singular of today's word, chopstick, because it almost always refers to a pair of chopsticks. Since this word came to English via a rather tortuous route (see Word History), it has no derivational relatives.
In Play: My family has always used chopsticks in Chinese restaurants, even the grandchildren. My younger son's children appreciated this tradition when they went to Beijing in the winter of 2014. My wife and I received gifts of plastic ivory chopsticks from the returning crew that year. We have apparently mastered the art in vain.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Chinese Pidgin English chop "quick(ly)" (as in chop-chop) + stick by folk etymology. This word ultimately comes from Mandarin kuàizi "nimble ones" made up of kuài "quick" + -zi, a noun suffix that is a replacement of earlier zhý "chopstick", used by boatmen to avoid the homonym zhý "to stop". The chop in chop suey comes from another source altogether: Cantonese shap suì "mixed bits". (I'll bet Eric Berntson, who suggested this odd little Good Word, uses chopsticks when eating Chinese food.)
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