Chop Chop

Meanings of “Chop Chop”

The phrase “chop chop” is derived from Cantonese and spread through Chinese workers. Later, English seamen picked it up and popularized it. The phrase means hurry and suggests that the action should be taken now, and immediately and that it should not be delayed.

Origin of “Chop Chop”

The phrase “chop chop” is stated to have originated from Cantonize as the Penny Magazine in its 1838 publication shows its use as “chop-chop” with a hyphen with the meanings “the sooner the better.” Since then, it has become popular sometimes with a hyphen and sometimes without a hyphen.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

“Chop-Chop” by Josie Whitehead

 “Chop-chop,” said Mum, “We’ll be ever so late.”
“Chop-chop” said Dad.  ”Well we don’t want to wait.”
“Chop-chop,” I said.  ”I’m hungry you know!”
And “chop-chop” is said to those who are slow.

“Chop-chop,” said Charlie:  ”They’re waiting for us!”
“Chop-chop,” said Matthew, “or we’ll miss the school bus.”
So it’s chop-chop to you and a chop-chop to me:
My kettle is boiling and they’re waiting for tea!!!

The two stanzas summarize the meanings of this phrase, repeating it ten times in the poem. The scenarios differ with each character from parents to the child but everyone is in a hurry to accomplish some tasks like eating food or catching a school bus.


Chop Chop Chop by Action Bronson

It’s okay, it’s okay
It’s okay, it’s okay
Damn, you taste good
Damn you, (…)
Ah, yeah
It’s me, uh
The wheels on the range go chop, chop, chop
Chop, chop, chop
Chop, chop, chop
Said the wheels on the range go chop, chop, chop
All up and down the block, block, block
The wheels on the range go chop, chop, chop

The singer says that everything is ok and there is no blockage, yet the above lines show that it means he wants to do things right now and without any delay. It is, therefore, natural that some of the shortened forms become slangs. However, the meanings of the phrase are not changed.

Example #3

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

Though mockingly called Monocle, the hero of Chop Chop completes a major in literature and starts a menial job in the kitchen of a pub where his passion for cuisine maestro comes across a motley of characters here and there. This life takes him to Dibden, a pastry chef, who teaches him the art of baking. However, he soon learns the art of hoodwinking as well as cooking due to the harshness of Bob, the chief chef. The novel runs around Monocle’s hurried manners of learning cooking. Therefore, the phrase used in the title as an allegory.

Example #4

The Completion of a Poem: Letters to Young Poets by Mu Yang

When the wind blows over the clear water, there are beautiful ripples on the river. Not far away some people are enjoying the cool in the shade, almost motionless; the harvest from the fields fills the storehouse – it is strange; how has so much harvest accumulated in unfarmed land? Looking up, we see their courtyards hung with the game from the mountains – how detestable! – but these people are obviously lazy even to go hunting. Why do they have such plentiful supply of good food? Oh, how could true gentlemen enjoy the fruits of others’ labor like this? “Chop, chop,” I continue cutting down the sandalwood tree; the sound of the axe travels to the other side of the river and echoes back…

The writer talks about the natural setting and the people having healthy food available, the reason that he starts cutting the sandalwood tree to enjoy it. The use of the phrase in the last line sheds light on his hurried manners in this natural setting.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Whenever Mike says chop chop, he often means to mock his brother, Bill. Bill always rode the bicycle slowly and it irritated him.”

Example #2: “More than 80 persons were killed in the war. The police were always chop chop in burying all the dead. While I was standing by, I thought myself of being chopped and buried with the dead.”

Example #3: “Chop chop, Lily said to herself. There were only last 10 minutes left to finish her exam and she had barely answered half of the question paper.”

Example #4: “Mother says: Chop chop and get your bags. She didn’t want her children to miss the school bus.”

Example #5: “Not everything has to be chop chop. A few things have to be done slowly.”