Monday, 17 March 2014

The Origin of Boxing.


            The other day I mentioned how difficult it was to write about hitting with the hand without implying a closed fist punch. Punching and hand-striking are effectively synonymous in common English. This morning I was reflecting on the term “boxing”. Generally when we talk about boxing we mean the western combat sport, but terms such as “boxer” or “boxing” are used for Chinese martial arts, for example. Why do we call fighting with our fists “boxing”? Wiktionary says

Middle English boxen (to box, beat) and box (a blow, a hit), of unknown origin but apparently akin to Middle Dutch boke (a blow, a hit), Middle High German buc (a blow), Danish bask (a blow). See also Ancient Greek πύξ (pux), πυγμή (pugmē) (fist, pugilism)”

            That a similar word exists in a number of European languages suggests it may have a very ancient root. It is also possible that the word has an onomatopoeic origin. Many more words in English have an onomatopoeic origin than you might suspect. Ever thought about why a device that makes a “tock” is a “clock”?