Query: "file 13" (throw sth. away)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jan 14 22:14:49 UTC 2005

My mother uses "round file." She says it was common in NYC in the forties.


"James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "James A. Landau"
Subject: Re: Query: "file 13" (throw sth. away)

I'm reasonably certain I heard both "file 13" and either "round file" or
"circular file" in elementary school in the late 1950's. I seem to recall one
teacher who consistently used at least one of those expressions .

Why "13"? Because 13 is the unluckly number, and it's easy to make a mental
transfer between "unlucky" and "oblivion"---other ADS-L members have suggested
such transfers already. By the way, why do so many buildings lack a 13th
floor while nobody seems to mind being in a building on 13th Street?

I can state with some confidence that I first became aware of "bit-bucket" (a
mythical place to which missing data disappears, sort of a wastebasket for
computer data) in late 1969, when I first reported to the Pentagon. There was a
standing joke that my supervisor Major Hodge had with a straight face put in
a written requisition for a bit bucket.

- Jim Landau

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