By 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