Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Chow n.

[abbr. pidgin chow-chow, food; ult. ? the chow dog, eaten in China; note MacGill, Reed Dict. of N.Z. Slang (2003): ‘Evolved from sailors calling food “chow”; chowchow for yellow pickles, from Chinese perceived as yellow in skin pigment. A term of contempt that followed Chinese into market gardening, where a cabbage was known as a chow.’]

1. (Aus.) a derog. term for a Chinese person, esp. an immigrant or descendant of one.

in G.L. Meredith Adventuring in Maoriland (1935) 22: History does not report what induced the solitary Chinaman to take up his abode amongst the hardy Scots at Dunedin. Possibly this ‘Chow’ wanted to study economy in its higher branches .
[Aus]A.J. Boyd Old Colonials 233: The pleasant traits of character in our colonialised ‘Chinkie,’ as he is vulgarly termed (with the single variation ‘Chow’).
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 2 Aug. 8/3: In China, all outstanding debts become null and void at the end of the year, and the sheventy-per-shent Chow who can’t overtake his debtor by five minutes to twelve on the last night of the year may as well give up.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Chinaman’s Ghost’ in Roderick (1972) 352: There was a Chinaman’s grave close by [...] An old Chow had lived in a hut there for many years.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 176: I found myself approached by a Chinaman, on a roan horse [...] it is impossible to recognise any individual Chow.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 16 Mar. 5/3: Glad to see you are keeping up the good work against the Chows [...] ‘Chow-hater’ writes asking why the Chinese gardeners [...] are allowed to work on Sunday.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 6 Apr. 6/3: [headline] When Wong Chuck Was Wild. Caught his Consort with Another Chow.
[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 57: Cigarettes [are] nasty, disgustin’ things. Chows smoke ’em.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘’Ave a ’Eart!’ in Rose of Spadgers 78: A fat Chow goggles at the broken hasps.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 52: He started smuggling opium and working it back to the blacks and Chows up in the Territory.
[UK]J.G. Brandon Gang War 201: There’s dope a-plenty bein’ shoved out [...] An’ it ain’t Chows that’s ’andlin’ it.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 94: The Chows breed like rabbits back home.
[Aus]A. Buzo Norm and Ahmed (1973) 21: You’re not like all those chows down in Dixon Street that jabber away in Chinese half the time.
[Aus]K. Gilbert Cherry Pickers I i: You’se both racists! Emma calls chows ‘Chings’.
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 80: Of course, the Chows have been a fact of life since the gold rush days.
[NZ]A. Duff State Ward 21: Chow? What as in Chinaman?
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 180: Abos, spooks, coons, slopes, chows, dagos, spags, spics, greasers and wogs – and whatever other third world gin jockey or porch monkey that came along.

2. the Chinese language.

[Aus]‘Wing Fat’ ‘Wing Fat‘ in Bulletin Reciter n.p.: In English they examined Wing, / In Chow and Irish too.

3. one who displays the negative characteristics of a stereotyped Chinese person.

[Aus]E. Dyson ‘The Truculent Boy’ in Benno and Some of the Push 49: ‘Yeh dirty, mean, cock-eyed Chow t’ hit a man when he ain’t ready,’ moaned Billy.

In compounds

Chowburg (n.)

(Aus.) Johannesburg.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 20 May 4/7: Chowburg ‘humor’ mostly runs to bedrooms and ladies’ underclothings.
(con. 1900s) U. Ho Paper Sons & Daughters 51: In these graphic representations the [Chinese] labourers are exoticised, caricatured. ‘Greetings from Chowburg’, says one postcard in a book about early Joburg. It shows labourers with their long ‘queues’.
Chow-land (n.)

(Aus.) China.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 26 Jan. 1/1: The ‘West Australian’ should really speak to its ‘Canton correspondent’ [...] it recently printed a fine pen picture of Chow-land under the guise of a paid-for article.

In phrases

awkward as a Chow on a bike

extremely clumsy, uncoordinated.

[Aus]Daily Tel. (Sydney) 7 Oct. 11: They say he [Vic Patrick] is clumsy (one described him as awkward as a Chow on a bike) and lacking in polish [GAW1].
Baker in Sydney Morn. Herald 18 Oct. Sun. Mag9/4: From the ‘Telegraph’: ‘as awkward as a Chow on a bike’, ‘as tough as seasoned mulga’.
[Aus]Baker Drum.
[Aus]Bulletin 12 Aug. 7: I confessed I was not familiar with ‘awkward as a Chow on a bike’ .
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 33/1: since ca. 1925.
www.horseshoes.com 23 July [Internet] I never use the cradle. I felt as awkward as a chow on a bike when I tried it.