Boxed cards

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Dec 12 23:06:29 UTC 2000

At 06:20 PM 12/10/00 -0600, you wrote:
>Can anyone help find the origin of "boxed," meaning a card that is faced
>in the wrong direction in a pack of playing cards? What dictionaries
>include that meaning?
>(This question is on behalf one of the editors of the American Contract
>Bridge League's Bridge Bulletin.)

I'm not familiar with the expression. I don't find it in the dictionaries.
But I can speculate.

Speculation 1:

Likely the verb "box" in "boxed card" is the same as the verb "box" = "mix
[up]"/"confuse", e.g., (1) with reference to livestock (incorrectly mixed
herds/flocks) in Australia and NZ [OED, RHUD, etc.], (2) in mixing liquids
such as paint [RHUD], (3) more generally -- in Australia, "to confuse
someone or something" [RHUD].

The Macquarie Australian dictionary shows "box up" = "to allow (separate
mobs of sheep) to become indiscriminately mixed", "make a box of" = "to
muddle". The Cassell slang dictionary shows "box-up" [NZ] =
"quandary"/"state of confusion", "box" [Australia/NZ] (v.) = "to make a
blunder, to mix something up" and (n.) = "a blunder, a mix-up, a mess".

Speculation 2:

Whence the word "box" = "mixup"/"mess"?

Compare the Cassell slang dictionary's definitions of "bollix" (v.) [US] =
"to make a mess of, to do badly", and "ballocks [up]" [Australia] = "to
ruin, to make a mess of". These are originally the same word
"ballocks"/"bollocks", originally = "testicles" (still current UK slang).

I suspect the verb "box" in the "mix-up" sense originated as a -- possibly
euphemistic -- alteration of this.

So a "boxed card" would be a "bollixed card" = "mixed-up/messed-up card".

[An alternative would be "box" as an alteration of "botch".]

Perhaps someone else has more substantial information, or a better speculation.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list