Cartoon etymology

Bizarro looks at boxing:

OED2 has the verb box tr. ‘to beat, thrash; (later) to strike with the fist, to cuff, to buffet; (now usually) to strike (the cheek, ear, etc.) with the hand’, and intr. ‘to fight with fists (now mostly of purely athletic practice with boxing-gloves)’ (both from the 16th century)  from the noun box ‘a blow, a buffet’ (from the 14th century through the 18th), then more specifically ‘a blow on the ear or side of the head with the hand; a slap, a cuff’ (15th century on). Alas, this noun box is of  unknown origin, but it seems pretty clearly to have nothing to do with the receptacle box (going back to Old English, and related to the box of boxwood, referring to a tree or shrub of the genus Buxus and to the wood of the box tree, from which receptacles or cases can be made).

Boxing, of course, started out as bare-knuckles fighting; the protective gloves were a later addition, but they’ve been around at least since Ancient Greece. They were eventually mandated in Britain by the Marquess of Queensberry rules (1867).


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