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A slang term for ‘food’, chow originated in the Pidgin English of the Chinese trading ports of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its probable source was Cantonese chaau, ‘fry, cook,’ although a more picturesque explanation offered has been that it was short for chow-chow, the name of a sort of Chinese dog, on the basis that they formed part of the Chinese diet (a theory perhaps supported by the fact that the earliest known reference to the word, in the glossary of a volume of reminiscences about China published in 1795, is in the form chow-chow).

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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