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Every Word Tells a Story 11 - Ketchup, Kelpie and Kabuki

Updated on June 18, 2017
Docmo profile image

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.


It's been a while, dear reader, since our last trip down the alphabet lane. We discovered the mysteries of Jade, quaffed a Jeroboam and danced the Jitterbug in our last journey. It is only a matter of time, then, that we arrive at our next stop, the curious K.

The eleventh letter of the alphabet has been driven to near extinction after other pretenders tried to take its mantle ( stand up, you cowardly 'C' and the questionable 'Q'!) It originated in the hieroglyphs via the semitic alphabet and eventually arrived in Greek as 'Kappa'.

Apparently the original hieroglyph represented the 'open hand'. The Semites then took it to represent the sound K, as their word for hand began with that sound.

In many languages, 'c' and 'q' have taken over the 'k' sound. In English that we continue to use 'k' side by side with the hard 'c' and the curious 'q'.

I like the letter K. But then you would too if your surname started with it!

Lets see what curious stories 'K' words deliver unto us.

 'K' by Jason Wright
'K' by Jason Wright

Special K

In this journey, we shall sample the delights of Ketchup, shiver at the eerie Kelpie, marvel at the Japanese art of Kabuki and the visual delights of a Kaleidoscope. We shall ponder on the curiosity of Kleptomania and shudder at the superstition of King's Evil.

Heinz Ketchup
Heinz Ketchup
Sharspburg, Pennysylvania:
Sharpsburg, PA, USA

get directions

Where Henry J Heinz first packaged foodstuff in the 1869.

Pittsburgh, Pennysylvania:
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

get directions

The HQ of HJ Heinz


Little did I know that the All- American favorite and the worldwide household darling, the tomato ketchup gets its name from a Chinese pickled fish sauce.

Back in the 17th century, the Amoy district of China made a distinctive fish sauce that was the brine of pickled fish or shellfish. The Amoy name for such a sauce was kôe-chiap or kê-chiap. This tangy table sauce made its way to the Malay Peninsula via the chinese immigrants in the 18th century and was discovered by the adventurous British explorers.

The Malay word for the sauce was kĕchap. From this came the English Ketchup and its alternative Catsup.

Throughout the 18th century the Term Ketchup or Catsup meant varieties of table sauces made from various ingredients such as fish, walnuts, mushrooms and many others.

It was only in the early 19th century ( 1801) that the first recipes of Tomato Ketchup originated in America.

As the Tomato ( Solanum lycopersicum) belongs to the deadly nightshade family, American's were understandably reluctant to use fresh tomatoes in their cookery as they considered that it may be poisonous.

Strangely though, the acceptance of Tomato Ketchup led to the eventual acceptance of fresh tomatoes into the diet. A rare case of a processed food leading to the acceptance of its fresh ingredient!

The famous Heinz Co. launched their Tomato Ketchup in 1876 and started their world domination of the market. Today over 60% of the tomato Ketchup consumed by the world is made by Heinz.

Pseudoplastic liquid in action!
Pseudoplastic liquid in action!
Shear stress and Flow
Shear stress and Flow

The Tap, Shake and Squeeze

Many a scientific paper has been written on the best way to get the ketchup out of the bottle. If you want to impress ( or bore to death) an unsuspecting fellow diner, here's the science behind the flow of Ketchup.

Tomato Ketchup shares its structure and viscosity with certain other liquids such as lava, blood, nail varnish and paint. These liquids share a property called pseudoplasticity.

Also known as 'shear thinning' this property means that when a shearing force is applied to the the liquid in question it starts to thin out and flow better. When the force is stopped it returns to a more viscous and less mobile state.

So whether you shake, squeeze or tap, what you're doing is applying sheer stress to a 'pseudoplastic' liquid. Now you have the license to geek out at dinner and impress others ( or you may be the recipient of shear force yourself!)



The eerily sinister Kelpie is the name of a mythological creature in Celtic folklore. Kelpies are often portrayed in Scotland as a 'water horse'. Usually mimicking a lost pony, the telltale sign of a constantly dripping mane wrapped in weed and bullrushes should give it away.

Sporting a greenish black hide, Kelpies can mimic innocent horses and lure children to ride them. Once you straddle them their skin turns adhesive and they drag the victim with them under water never to be seen again.

In other versions, Kelpies can turn into beautiful water nymphs and lure sailors along the riverbanks. The lore of the Kelpie is shared all over Celtic and Nordic region.

The Kelpie by Henry James Draper (1864 -1920)
The Kelpie by Henry James Draper (1864 -1920)

Other names for the Kelpie

Orkney Islands
Isle of Man
Capall uisce
Ceffyl Dŵr
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kabuki PerformersKabuki PerformersKabuki PerformersKabuki PerformersKabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers
Kabuki Performers


The word Kabuki ( 歌舞伎) in Japanese Kanji characters literally means 'sing' 'dance' and 'skill'. what an elegant way to describe an artform.

The Classical form of Japanese Dance-Drama, Kabuki, originated in the 17th century during the Edo period. Izumo No Okuni, a shrine maiden ( Miko) is attributed to its origins. Female performers played the male and female roles during the origins.

Kabuki dance form told stories of historical and mythological nature and simplified it to the common folk. In this manner, it became a popular, ribald and often riotous entertainment. As the female performers in these entertainment troupes were also often available for prostitution during those times, these performances attracted a diverse crowd of social classes.

The ruling shoguns felt these ribald entertainments were a disgrace to society and banned women from performing. This lead to all male troupes performing male and female roles - a tradition that has lasted till modern day.

Kabuki traditional make up
Kabuki traditional make up

Kabuki Theatre

Steeped in centuries old tradition, Kabuki today remains the most popular form of Japanese dance-drama enjoyed by many in Japan and internationally.

Many of the traditions have endured years of transformation and modernisation. Unlike other forms of entertainments Kabuki used to be ( and still is in some circles) a whole day entertainment where the audiences are invited to experience and escape into the fantasy/ history of the subject matter for the day.

A theatre district running Kabuki in olden days sustained a whole industry around it- the restaurants selling wonderful food, the souvenir makers, the costumes and clothes of the performance and many more.

Today the performers enjoy national iconic status and many famous Japanese Kabuki actors enjoy popularity in film and television.

A Kabuki actor
A Kabuki actor

A Kabuki Glossary

Art form
Sing- Dance- Skill
Performance type
Performance type
Domestic stories
Performance type
Dance pieces
Kabuki unique make up
the base palette
exaggerated lines
Walkway into Audience
flower path
Stage Tricks
'playing to the gallery'
Stage Traps
seriage/ serioshi
ascending or descending
'Riding in midair'
Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868) - Inventor of the Kaleidoscope
Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868) - Inventor of the Kaleidoscope
Kaleidoscope structure
Kaleidoscope structure
Reflection symmetry
Reflection symmetry


The Greek word 'Kalos' meaning beauty crops up in many English words but is usually spelt with the hard C. We have previously encountered this in the 'C' chapter as Calligraphy ( beautiful writing) Calisthenics ( beautiful shapes) and Calliphygean ( a beautiful bum!).

The word Kaleidoscope is given to the contraption that creates magical shapes and forms using colourful beads inside a reflective mirror surface.

Kaleidoscopes were first created by Sir David Brewster, a Scottish polymath who was a mathematician, physicist, inventor and writer. Among his many contributions in the field of Optics, Brewster first invented the Kaleidoscope while studying diffraction of light.

The simple device was made of three rectangular mirrors mounted inside a cylinder filled with glass beads. One end allows light and the other represents the viewing glass. Brewster set out to study light polarisation. The beautiful images created by multiple internal reflection dazzled him enough to set about patenting and marketing this as a toy.

The ideal angle of placing these reflective surfaces is 60°.

In its first three months of production, the Kaleidoscope sold over two hundred thousand pieces in London and Paris.

Brewster, sadly, failed to make his big fortune due to a fault in his original patent application, allowing competitors to flood the market.

Kleptomania - an Impulse control disorder
Kleptomania - an Impulse control disorder


Unlike thieving for financial gain, Kleptomania ( Greek Klepto - to steal, mania - obsessive desire) is described as an impulse control disorder where the afflicted get increasing pressure to act, experience an adrenaline rush when the act is underway and experience a 'release' when it is complete.

Kleptomania is also described as the recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal, even though items are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value.

Afflicted persons may also suffer from Obsessive compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, Depression and other Mood disorders that are linked to this.

Kleptomania has perhaps become a popular defence for those who get caught in the act, when in reality only 5% of thefts are due to Kleptomania.

Psychotherapy and counselling were used primarily for treatment, but of late SSRI antidepressant drugs such as Fluoxetine ( Prozac) , Citalopram ( Cipramil, Celexa) and Sertraline ( Zoloft, Lustral) have been very effective in treatment.

QUIZ: Do you know your Manias?

QUIZ: Do you know your Manias?

view quiz statistics
King Charles Touching for King's Evil - Ralph Hedley 1907
King Charles Touching for King's Evil - Ralph Hedley 1907
John Morley's famous treatise on King's Evil
John Morley's famous treatise on King's Evil

King's Evil

Scrofula is a disease of the lymph nodes of the neck. It usually starts as a painless lump and then gradually swells and becomes an abscess without any signs od redness or inflammation ( hence called a 'cold abscess')

Thankfully rare due to the steady decrease of tuberculosis throughout the world in the 20th century. However, due to the rise in AIDS a small proportion of cases have started reappearing in immunocompromised individuals.

It is caused by the same bacteria that causes Tuberculosis ( Mycobacterium Tuberculosis) although other atypical bacteria can cause it too.

In Medieval times, scrofula was believed to be cured by the 'Royal Touch' of the Sovereign of England or France due to their divine right. For this reason the disease was known as 'Kings Evil'.

From the 17th century the book of common prayer even had a special ceremony written in whereby the King or Queen would ceremonially touch the afflicted and hand over a gold coin to the sufferer. The practice continued well into the 18th century in England until King George I put an end to it. Similarly in France it continued well into the 18th century.


Did you know that Karaoke is a short form of 'Kara Okesutura'  which means 'Empty Orchestra' ( the Japonified word for Orchestra is Okesutura)
Did you know that Karaoke is a short form of 'Kara Okesutura' which means 'Empty Orchestra' ( the Japonified word for Orchestra is Okesutura)

© 2013 Mohan Kumar


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    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      I think I love ketchup, the kabuki art form and the colors of the kaleidoscope. A wonderful tribute to the forgotten K!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I am still thinking about the ketchup informtion and would love a hot dog covered with it right now. Glad the King's Evil is not a worry today. Very informational and well done.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Delighted to see that you returned to your Every Word Tells a Story series, Mohan. This is a knock-out, kommendable kollection of kultured komponents. Your explanations are fascinating and intriguing. Voted way Up!

    • gypsumgirl profile image


      5 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado

      Loved your hub! I learned a great deal and enjoyed your humor. Thank you! What a great hub! Voting up for sure!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This trip with the letter K was indeed a fascinating tale. I love the way you used the pictures along with the details of each work. Awesome hub!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hi Mohan, this was absolutely fascinating! And your layout was perfect, I never knew about ketchup how amazing, and the kabuki info was great, loved this, and great to see you, voted up and shared! nell

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mohan (Docmo),

      Thanks for taking time from your medical textbook project to publish another article in this informative series.

      As you know, I've published a few linguistics articles. I'm fascinated with languages and with words and their origins. I guess my interest started when I took a philology course in college.

      I will be sharing your article with my HubPages followers, posting the link on Google+, and tweeting it. Well done, polymath!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I find your series fascinating as I do love the etomology of words. What is clever here is you include the etomology of the letter of the alphabet . That is do interesting in itself. Wonderful idea and great series. One question-how do you choose or select the words you use?


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