Boxed cards

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Dec 13 05:39:17 UTC 2000

>I think the "bollixed" derivation is fairly implausible, and offer
>another source (or pair of sources).  The RHHDAS has two senses for
>"boxed" that strike me as not too unlikely candidates:
>(1) 'drunk, drugged, high':  the face up card is too out of it to
>know what it's doing ....

This, I believe, is probably another example of "box" <
"ballocks"/"bollocks"/"bollix". The Spears dictionary gives this as
"'boxed-up' (also 'boxed')" = "intoxicated" [alcohol or drug] (US).
Partridge tentatively connects "box-up" = "mix-up"/"muddle" (n.) with
"ballocks-up" and also gives a pointer to the Australian/NZ "box [up]" =
"make a mistake"/"mix [livestock]". A current US rough equivalent of "boxed
up" is "f*cked up", used to mean both "intoxicated" [of a person] and
"mixed-up/messed-up/confused" [of a thing or situation -- e.g., "SNAFU"].

[In between "f*cked" and "boxed" is "foxed", another word for "intoxicated"
... euphemism, conflation, or coincidence? I suspect coincidence.]

Expressions using "box" fall into three groups in the conventional
dictionaries: (1) "enclosure"/"container", probably < Latin "pyxis"; (2)
"boxwood", < Latin "buxus", from the same Greek root as (1), I guess; (3)
"blow with the hand" < ME "boxen" < ? [perhaps from sense (1), figurative
"box" = "fist"?]. ["Box the compass", "box-about" I think probably are from
sense (1), although an origin from Latin "volvere" has been put forth.
"Boxhaul" I presume arises from "box" = "ship" (sense (1)). "Boxed" =
"dead" I presume arises from sense (1) ("put in a box/coffin").]

There is however this group of meanings like "confuse"/"mix", which are
listed under (1) in my dictionaries but which do not seem congruent with
the basic idea of a "box": these I suspect arise from "ballocks". I don't
know what the etymologists down under think about this. I think the
playing-card usage fits best in this group, even if my etymological
speculation should be proven wrong.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list