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Oct 25, 2012 06:24 AM

Is There Another Word for "Chopsticks"?

This has been bugging me for a while. I think there is another word for "chopsticks", but I can't remember it. The word "chopsticks" to me seems very dated and Americanized, there must be another word in use. Anyone know?

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  1. chopsticks are not chopsticks in their respective countries, in Japan for instance while many people might understand chopsticks, they are called 'hashi'

    1. kuai zi. you might be understood by more people in the world using that rather than the 'standard'.

      1. Or zhu (箸 zhù), the ancient name for chopsticks!

        Commercial travel in 17th century China was not easy – divination techniques were required so businessmen could protect themselves against misfortune and move about on auspicious days. Elaborate calculations were required to minimize risk and risk avoidance penetrated many aspects of daily commercial living.

        Suzhou merchants would not use the words for fan (翻 fān or “overturned”) or zhu (住 zhù or “blocked”) . Since spoken Mandarin has a high number of homonyms, this lead to all sorts of engaging word substitutions.

        The word for chopsticks 箸 zhù and blocked 住 zhù are pronounced exactly the same but written differently.

        Since Suzhou businessmen feared having their goods blocked, they started using the opposite word, kuai (快 kuài or “fast”) – the word we use today for chopsticks 筷子 kuài zi.

        4 Replies
        1. re: scoopG

          Not suprisingly, the ancient Chinese character for chopsticks 箸 is the same one used in Japan now. Interestingly, the word for "bridge" is a homonym, 橋, and is pronounced the same ("hashi") but with a slightly different emphasis when saying it.

          1. re: scoopG

            I had never heard this explanation. I figured the idea was just that they were quick things.
            Suzhou hua, being a dialect of Wu, is quite a long way from Mandarin, but I expect the homonyms may be constant.

            1. re: buttertart

              This according to Timothy Brook (University of British Columbia) in "The Troubled Empire:
              China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties." (Harvard U Press; Cambridge, 2010). And I thought your husband was the Suzhou scholar!

              1. re: scoopG

                That he is, and it seems he hadn't noticed that in Brook's book (hence my never having heard this, it's tidbits like this that tend to get pointed out).
                The interest in Suzhou, if not the expertise, is mutual. Things wear off on one over time, after all.

                The auspicious days for travel and every other endeavor, and inauspicious homonym problems definitely apply. After all, Zhu Yuanming, the first Ming emperor, who was both ill-favored of appearance and of peasant origin, was known to take mention of pigs and pork as suspect onto seditious.

                My interest being more in language than history, I would not have thought that Mandarin was what the merchants were doing business in. Suzhou dialect seems to me even farther from Mandarin than Taiwanese is.

            1. In France they are called 'baguettes'

              2 Replies
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                I'd forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  ...which creates a mental image that makes me giggle.