The Chinese discovered how to make silk from silkworm cocoons more than 5,000 years ago. For over 3,000 years, the Chinese kept their discovery a secret. Since poor people could not afford real silk, they tried to make other cloth look silky. Women beat on cotton with sticks to soften its fibers. Then they rubbed it against a big stone to make it shiny. The shiny cotton was called "chintz." Since chintz was a cheaper copy of silk, calling something "chintzy" means it is cheap.