Why have we made all these boxes?
How many words can you think of that end in ‘box’? Can you reel off a dozen in a minute? There are loads, 50 of which are at the bottom of this article.
Why are there so many?
Partly because the word box looks cool. It’s short and ends in an x, like other cool words (fox, fix, mix, hex, lex, max, sax, sex).
But our penchant for boxes isn't just linguistic or aesthetic. It comes from a deep-rooted need. Since humans have been around, we’ve tried to make sense of and bring order to the unseemly chaos we find ourselves in. One of the most effective methods we’ve developed is breaking things down, categorizing, compartmentalising — boxing. Other words serve this same need (cell, room, unit, fence, ringfence).
Ancient civilizations meticulously organized and stored grains in silos, herbs in pots, and scrolls in chambers. These were their "boxes," protective confines that allowed them to protect and manage precious resources and keep order.
The cardboard box was invented in 1817, over 200 years ago.
We have no better invention all these years later. To this day we keep shoes, pills, mail, jewellery and toys in boxes. It’s simple and it works. Boxes are timeless.
It’s not just the physical. Many of our electronic interactions with people are kept in an inbox. Plenty of us store digital files in a dropbox. We try out new software, safely, in a sandbox. We also divide life up into intervals, periods and eras to help us make our way through — we timebox.
In a wickedly complex world, the box is a symbol and source of control.
50 words ending in ‘box’: