Posted on 17 January 2008 by

Is it Ketchup or Catsup?

Recipe: How to Make Your Own Ketchup - tomatocasual.comBy Michelle Fabio

A condiment of two names–so which is correct?

Is it ketchup or catsup?

According to World Wide Words, one of the earliest references to one of our favorite tomato-based products occurs in the 1711 book by Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India. And he calls it “Ketchup.”

The origins of the word are convoluted, apparently, but the short version is that it likely comes from a Chinese dialect. The original sauce was meant for fish–interesting since these days ketchup isn’t a very common addition to fish dishes.

World Wide Words says that the first western ketchup appears in The Compleat Housewife by Elizabeth Smith in 1727 and included, as the saying goes, everything but the kitchen sink–from anchovies to vinegar to spices to lemon peel.

Ah, and everything but the tomato.

Tomatoes didn’t become a part of ketchup until the 19th century in the United States, but the great name debate started much earlier. In a 1690 entry in the Dictionary of the Canting Crew, the term used was “catchup,” which was used more in North America than in Britain.

So where did “catsup” come from? Believe it or not, from Jonathan Swift who wrote of “Botargo, catsup, and caveer” in 1730, and actually “catsup” was the more common term in the United States for many years.

Now, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major producer of one of America’s favorite condiments making “catsup”–it’s all ketchup now.

Source: Ketchup versus Catsup

6 Responses to “Is it Ketchup or Catsup?”

  1. Thedog Says:

    Ketchup or Catsup, either one is right.

    What annoys me is the people who think that Catsup or ketchup can only be made from tomatoes. There are many different kinds of ketchup recipes in this world that do not use tomatoes, but most are unknown to Westerners who think Catsup is alway the red stuff.

    I remember getting into an argument almost 25 years ago with one stupid burger flipper. He asked me what I wanted on my burger and I said, quite correctly, “Tomato Ketchup”.

    The guy asked me “What other kinda ketchup is there? It’s always tomato.”

    “There’s pepper ketchup and chili catsup and so on,” I shot back.

    “Nah, there ain’t”. He started to laugh and said to another idiot burger flipper, ‘This guy says there’s pepper ketchup.”

    “Duh,” said the other genius.

    I hate fools, so I tried to educate these louts:
    “In India, they make all kinds of Catsup. Your ignorance is showing.”

    “ladida, in India. This ain’t India and we only got Tomato ketchup here.”

    I’d had it. I decided not to eat that burger he was making, and since I hadn’t paid for it yet, I decided just to leave the burger joint. But before leaving I gave him a grammar lesson about adjectives. I doubted it would take, as the guy had shown he hadn’t wanted to acquire any new culinary knowledge either.

    “Adjectives modify a noun. Tomato is the adjective which modifies what kind of ketchup it is. You just used it in what you just said. Now go @#!% yourself.”

    I walked out, burger-less, but I realized there and then that most people prefer to be stupid. Some will even argue about meaningless minutae based on their own ignorance of the world, like whether or not catsup or ketchup is the correct word.

  2. TJ Says:

    The word ketchup is derived from the Chinese (Cantonese) meaning tomato sauce (or juice). Therefore in strict terms, “ketchup” only refers to tomato sauce, and other uses are misnomers. Maybe you should have eaten that burger…

  3. michelle Says:

    I think this debate has just sparked an idea for another Tomato Casual post…thanks Thedog and TJ 🙂

  4. Kelly Says:

    I prefer the term “Catsup”; it is what I remember all the tomato catsup bottles having printed on their labels when I was growing up. Psychologically, it just tastes better when it is spelled catsup, too.

  5. Alberto Says:

    ha ha ha. this is funny.
    I come from Mexico, and we called it catsup. I had seen picture of people making fun uf us(Mexicans) because we called it catsup and not ketchup! (double ha ha ha) I guess knowledge is withing your reach, you just need to open your mind. thanks .

  6. roy gorton Says:

    In the cooking trade we have always referred to it as sauce americaine ergo tomato seems to rule. In addition sour cream is referred to as white catsup .Used in excess they both tend to bury flavor more than enhance it.

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