Chub and chums in the morning

Yesterday’s morning name was chub (the name of a fish), which led me to the rest of the bilabial-final family: chum, chump, and chup. (And that led to the velar-final family chug, Chung, chunk, chuck, but I won’t pursue that one here.) As it is, the bilabials will lead us into many surprising places, including the Hardy Boys books, eyewear retainers, Australian dog food, gay slurs, and hunky underwear models.

chub the fish. From NOAD2:

noun chub: a thick-bodied European river fish with a gray-green back and white underparts, popular with anglers. [Leuciscus cephalus, family Cyprinidae [carps, minnows, and their relatives].] ORIGIN late Middle English: of unknown origin.

Some plump chub netted in the River Trent (from a UK fishing site):


The adjective chubby. Yes, the fish leads to the adjective. From NOAD2:

adjective chubby plump and rounded: a pretty child with chubby cheeks. ORIGIN early 17th century (in the sense ‘short and thickset, like a chub [fish]’).

The synthetic compound chubby-chaser. From GDoS:

noun chubby-chaser  a man who prefers (unfashionably) plump or fat women or, if gay, men. [first cite 1980 in the journal Maledicta]

A synthetic compound of the agentive type: ‘man who chases chubby people (for a romantic or sexual relationship)’.

Looking ahead a bit, chubby can be shortened in this compound to chub: the abbreviated chub chaser — as in this Filipino gay porn movie:


Slang nouns chubby. From GDoS:

noun chubby

1 a short, squat umbrella [only cite 1927]

2 [play on fatness] an erection [first cite 1998; sometimes used for a semi-erection, partial hardon]

So you can have a morning chubby, just like morning wood.

And this sexual noun chubby, just like the chubby in chubby-chaser, can be shortened to chub.

Slang nouns chub. We are now in the territory of non-piscine nouns chub. From GDoS:

noun chub [Standard English chub, a short, squat fish; thus a pun on ‘thick’ or ‘dense’ or being ‘easily taken’]

1 an unexperenced, naive person, a fool. [first cite 1623; most recent cite 1823

2 a rustic, simpleton; thus chubbish adj.] [only cite 1666]

3 (UK Underground) a sharper [cites 1698-1776]

4 a fat person; the fat on the body [first cite 1838] [AZ: this is surely now seen as a shortening of chubby, as above, rather than as directly derived from the name of the fish]

5 (US campus) a child; a baby [only cite 1896, where a derivation from cherub is suggested; (AZ) but, again, now surely seen as related to chubby rather than to the fish chub]

6 [shortening of chubby ‘an erection’] an erection

Three nouns chum. From NOAD2:

noun chum 1: informal a close friend; a form of address expressing familiarity or friendliness: it’s your own fault, chum.
verb chum: [no object] to be friendly to or form a friendship with someone: they started chumming around in high school. ORIGIN late 17th century (originally Oxford University slang, denoting a roommate): probably short for chamber-fellow.

noun chum 2: chiefly North American chopped fish, fish fluids, and other material thrown overboard as angling bait; refuse from fish, especially that remaining after expressing oil.
[There are some reports of this chum being used to mean ‘menstrual flow’, (unpleasantly) alluding to both fish ‘vagina; a woman’ and to menstrual blood.]
verb chum [no object] use chum as bait when fishing. ORIGIN mid 19th century: of unknown origin.

noun chum 3: (also chum salmon) a large North Pacific salmon that is commercially important as a food fish. [Oncorhyncus keta, family Salmonidae.] ORIGIN early 20th century: from Chinook Jargon tzum (samun), literally ‘spotted (salmon).’

Friendly chum. chum 1 is one of a set of relational Ns of friendship in informal English, in particular:

(R) mate, pal, chum, buddy

These Ns denote ‘friend of s.o.’, where the related friend is canonically expressed as a possessor of N: a definite determiner, in NP’s N (his palFrank’s chum, etc.); or a possessive object of of in an indefinite nominal, in a N of NP’s (a mate of mine, some buddy of Frank’s, etc.). Canonically, the relationships are male-male, but the facts of actual usage are more complex than that.


Male friendship: two mates/pals/chums/buddies

The choice of a particular relational N of friendship is sociolinguistically very complex. The friendship N mate is characteristically British or Australian, almost never used by North Americans; the friendship N buddy is characteristically North American, rarely used in the UK or Australia. The friendship Ns pal and chum are more widely distributed.

The relationship N chum originated in BrE and then spread into AmE, where for a time it was quite common. Note this Hardy Boys mystery:


The Missing Chums is volume 4 in the original The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories published by Grosset & Dunlap [written in 1928, revised several times]… The plot concerns the disappearance of the Boys’ chums, Chet and Biff, when they take a motorboat trip down the coast. When Frank and Joe finally find them, they are all captured. In the end, they triumph over the bad guys on mysterious Hermit Island. (Wikipedia link)

In AmE, this use of chum has retreated; it now sounds dated to American ears, though it doesn’t sound entirely foreign. Consider the American company Chums, whose original products were eyewear retainers:


The all-cotton, easily adjustable Chums Original Cotton retainer is the product that put us on the map. Millions agree: it is ideal for all forms of action, be it on water, land, snow, or in the air. The original cotton eyeglass retainer has it all: quality, comfort, and the ability to fit most standard frames. (company website link)

The company’s name comes from its mascot Chumley, a golden lab. (The company branched out into outdoor accessories, men’s sportswear, wallets and keychains; their principal competitor seems to be the Croakies company,) However, Chums is not above playing on the relational N chum:


Relational chum continues to be widely available in BrE Two illustrations.

First, there’s the 1990s BBC comedy show, originally titled Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, but later, when its focus had moved from Enfield to Enfield and two of his friends, it became Harry Enfield and Chums (Wikipedia link).

And then there’s the British underwear company Bum-Chums:

Gay men across the world, it’s time to rejoice!! Bum-chums has arrived and is on a mission to rid the world of dull, dreary, sad and saggy men’s underwear and replace with fun, funky, form fitting fancies to caress your bottom and everything else!

Bum-Chums is a British brand with all of our pants made in Britain… That’s right… We design and make all of our great men’s underwear right here in England and we’re proud to say so too.

Our mission to make the best men’s underwear we can drives us in our every day struggle to get the world into our pants! That’s right; we want you to get in our pants! You heard us right! (link to company website)

Front and rear:



The rhyming name pairs relational chum with BrE bum ‘buttocks; anus’; it looks like the BrE counterpart of AmE butt buddy, but the BrE compound appears to be used only to refer to the bottom man in anal intercourse, while the AmE compound can (like asshole buddy) have this meaning, but is most often used to refer to an extremely close friend.

Then there’s the Australian dog food Chum, which comes in various flavors (lamb of course, also beef and chicken):


(I’ll get to chumpy below.) I haven’t been able to find out where the name comes from, but it’s possible that chum is an allusion to “man’s best friend”.

Back to the relational Ns in (R). They are all usable as address terms as well as referentially, with one twist: though referential chum is no longer generally used in AmE, vocative chum thrives there (Listen, chum, I don’t believe a word of your story). So does the verbing chum, as in chum around with, and the adjective chummy.

The bait noun chum. This is the noun chum 2, referring to ground-up trash fish, used as bait. In a bag:


Note terrible pun: Chum and Get’Em.

The salmon chum. This is the noun chum 3, referring to what is also known as the dog salmon or keta salmon.


The noun chump. After the complexities of chum, chump is virtually a breeze. From NOAD2:

noun chump: informal a foolish or easily deceived person: how can this chump be a detective? ORIGIN early 18th century (in the sense ‘thick lump of wood’): probably a blend of chunk and lump or stump.

A somewhat better quote, the title of a story in Men’s Fitness:

10 Signs She’s Playing You Like a Chump

More from Down Under. After the ‘thick lump of wood’ and ‘easily deceived person’ senses, the Macquarie Dictionary (1981):

noun chump: 3. the thick blunt end of anything. 4. Colloq. the head. 5. Meat Industry. a section of lamb, hogget or mutton, between the leg and the loin, each chump containing approximately four chops.

From the Mulwarra Export Co., a bone-in lamb leg chump:


This meaty chump is presumably the source of the “… so chumpy you can carve it” in #9, with chumpy ‘like a chump’, that is, like a piece of meat.

The word chup. The last of the bilabial-final series. This one has the vowel /U/ (as in put) rather than /ʌ/ (as in putt). From NOAD2:

exclamation chup: Indian be quiet! ORIGIN from Hindi cuprao.

So we end with Indian English. Well, not quite…

A couple extras, words that start with chup-, both pronounced with /u/. Both from GDoS:

noun chupa [orig. Sp.]: (US campus) a sucker, often used affectionately [cite from Eble in 1996]

adj. chupid:  [W.I. variant of stupid] gullible, ignorant [first cite 1869]

One Response to “Chub and chums in the morning”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Compleat Angler Izaak Walton in 1653 referred to the “chavender, or chub”. Apparently chavender is a variant of chevin, another name for the fish.

    A verse sending off this strange pair of words is of somewhat uncertain authorship, but apparently appeared in Punch in the late 1800s.

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