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I do not often come across the word catsup, but I do see it every once in a while, and I know it means ketchup. What I don't know is why they both came to be words for the same thing (though ketchup is much more popular). Dictionary.com says catsup was invented later as an anglicization, but even that raises questions. Why and when did someone try to anglicize ketchup, and why didn't it ketch on?

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(OK, really lame pun) –  Daniel Aug 3 '11 at 12:17
Catsup? Ketchup? –  Matt Эллен Aug 3 '11 at 12:28
Why was this downvoted? (I'd just like to know if the problem is inherent to the question, or whether I can tweak something to make it more acceptable.) –  Daniel Aug 4 '11 at 17:00
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1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Etymonline entry is

1711, from Malay kichap, from Chinese (Amoy dialect) koechiap "brine of fish." Catsup (earlier catchup) is a failed attempt at Anglicization, still in use in U.S. Originally a fish sauce, early English recipes included among their ingredients mushrooms, walnuts, cucumbers, and oysters (Johnson, 1755, defines catsup as "A kind of pickle, made from mushrooms"). Modern form of the sauce began to emerge when U.S. seamen added tomatoes.

So, there was catsup and catchup before ketchup and even the recipe had changed. Here's ngram for illustration of use

enter image description here

Wikipedia entry might prove to be an interesting read to you, too.

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I'd venture to guess that almost all of the modern-era occurrences of "catchup" are from people who meant to write "catch up". :/ –  Marthaª Oct 25 '12 at 15:26
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