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I've always known the Japanese word for "chopsticks" to be (お)箸{はし}.

Today in my usual practice of reading everything around me I looked up what was written on the wrapper of the disposable chopsticks that came with my supermarket bento:

おてもと

Paper chopstick wrapper with おともて written on it

I was firstly surprised to find out that it's another word for "chopsticks", and secondly on looking up WWWJDIC that it has many variants:

おてもと 《お手許; お手元; 御手許; 御手元》 (n) (uk) chopsticks (often written on the paper wrapper)

From this I can see that it's usually written on paper chopstick wrappers and that all the kanji forms are uncommon, but nothing else.

I'd like to know the origin or history of the term. Does it have any other current uses besides on wrappers, was it more common in the past? And why does it have so many variants? Obviously the initial お is the honorific that can also be written 御, but what about the two possible final characters 許 and 元?

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Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/7086 –  snailboat Mar 30 at 14:14
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「箸袋に「おてもと」と書いてあることがあるが、これは「手もとに置く箸」という意味の「お手もと箸」が省略されたものである」だそうです。 ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Choko Mar 30 at 15:11
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@hippietrail: (ちなみに)Notice that the title of Chocolate's link is 割り箸 - another word containing 割り (as in your question コヒー割り). However I think the order here ties in with the logic recently explained somewhere else for words such as 食べ物. –  Tim Apr 2 at 2:31

1 Answer 1

おてもと does refer to chopsticks but it is not "another word for chopsticks." That is, you won't say おてもとを取ってください nor 新しいおてもとを買ってこようかな.

According to the source article that Chocolate's Wikipedia article mentions, the word came from a reference to "お手もと箸" (chopsticks for your personal use) in contrast to "お取り箸", which refers to chopsticks for shared dishes that you use to bring food from a shared dish to your personal dish.

Good question about お手許 vs お手元. I couldn't find any source that tells me how those two uses came about being, although I suspect this kind of writing variations aren't all that uncommon.

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@KK: If this intended as a comprehensive answer then it might be useful to us learners to mention that, per Wikipedia, 「お手もと箸」is an abbreviation for「手もとに置く箸」. –  Tim Apr 2 at 6:20

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