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 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 etymonline.com:
1937, 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.