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Jukebox Coffin: Box Etymology

it’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?  three perfectly balanced, elegant letters.  the self-contained O literally “boxed in” by the feminine curvature of the B and the masculine dynamism of the X.

box /bäks/

box 1 |bäks|
1 a container with a flat base and sides, typically square or rectangular and having a lid

the sheer amount of definitions, as well as idioms and common expressions that contain the word box is testament to the importance of the idea of a box in American culture and language.  with the great exception of the term box as slang for coffin, most of these phrases are positive.  we see boxes mostly in a positive light–not as restrictive spaces but rather as precious objects, bringing organization and meaning to our world.

I believe even the common idiom “think outside the box”, which at first glance seems to use the word box in a pejorative way, is a popular expression due to the warm feelings the very word “box” evokes in the first place.  the phrase now evokes feelings of creativity and inventiveness rather than restriction and status quo.  maybe that seems like a stretch.  this notion of the near automatic positivity of the word box is reinforced from a quick reading of the etymology of jukebox, another term with highly negative roots but that now evokes extremely positive, nostalgic emotions.  This is from

Jukebox1937, jook organ, from jook joint “roadhouse” (1935), Black English slang, from juke, joog “wicked, disorderly,” in Gullah (the creolized English of the coastlands of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida), probably from Wolof and Bambara dzug “unsavory.” Said to have originated in central Florida (see “A Note on Juke,” Florida Review, vol. VII, no. 3, spring 1938). The spelling with a -u- might represent a deliberate attempt to put distance between the word and its origins.

For a long time the commercial juke trade resisted the name juke box and even tried to raise a big publicity fund to wage a national campaign against it, but “juke box” turned out to be the biggest advertising term that could ever have been invented for the commercial phonograph and spread to the ends of the world during the war as American soldiers went abroad but remembered the juke boxes back home. [“Billboard,” Sept. 15, 1945]

and if that’s not enough evidence for the greatness of this beautiful three letter word, I’ve just created this list of wonderfully mysterious words simply by pulling words from various definitions of the noun box 1  (bɒks), via the Collins World English Dictionary:

base, baseball, birds, border, casing, central, coal, coffin, collected, compartment, computing, container, contents, cubicle, cut, device, ditches, dividing, enclosing, female, genitals, hinged, hole, horse-drawn, housing, lines, machinery, mail, mechanical, newspaper, original, page, parts, post-office, printed, protective, rectangle, redistributed, removable, sap, section, shelter, space, stable, systems, transporting, tree, wheeled, white


as a side-note, maybe Jukebox Coffin would be a good band name.  or a pretty sweet amalgam to actually create as a work of contemporary art.  if only i was a sculptor.

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i am looking for mars. he is quite elusive.
according to nasa, tonight is the closest mars and earth have been since nearly 60,000 years ago. (Mars in the Night Sky) Unless you’re a creationist, in which case, i guess it’s as close as it’s ever been. but i’m going to go with 60,000 years on this one.
i have a 5 inch reflecting telescope, which i’ve owned since i was about eleven. i used to like it mainly because it was big, fancy, red and shiny. it made me feel like i really was going to become an astronomer someday. that didn’t quite pan out… but i still have the telescope. unfortunately, i never figured out how to configure it correctly during set up, so that the declension and right ascension (celestial longitude and latitude) markers would actually make sense. this means that the only thing i have ever seen through it is the moon (although i have seen the moon looking quite close and spectacular). in comparison to the sky, stars are very small. planets are small too. i haven’t had the telescope out for years, but i figured with mars as bright as it is, it wouldn’t be too difficult to see. alas. i suppose my viewfinder scope thing isn’t quite lined up. and i’m sure i’ve got other problems i’m not even aware of. the older i get, the more apparent it is that i made a wise decision with my career choice. science and math were never my forte. the wonder of it all turns into numbers pretty quickly when you actually try and do something. but it is cool just to see a big red thing hanging there in the sky. go check it out in the next few nights if you get a chance. enough about space.

cyberspace. did you see the news about Bearcast internet radio? i hope we get a bunch of people tuning in tomorrow. sam, t, and i will feel quite lonely on the world wide web without you. they have some phone numbers listed too, and i believe michelle will be taking calls.lastly, but definitely not leastly (well it’s a word now), is the show on friday at the mad frog. again, this is sam’s performance. the last hurrah. the big shibang. the grande finale. i hope lots of people show up. we have something extra special planned. you have never seen anything like it at a JFK show. i guarantee it.joe

UPDATE: 1:30am
all that stuff i said about career choices–nevermind. i saw my first planet through a telescope. awesome. with the 20mm lense, and then the 6mm (lower number = higher magnification). now i know it’s just a matter of extreme patience. combing back and forth, up a hair, over 60 hairs, up a hair, over… unfortunately, it was slightly hazy and i didn’t see much definition. i did see an orange circle, instead of a small orange star. and that’s a step up. one day i will buy better lenses and i’ll be unstoppable. and we can have a big telescope party.

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