Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ask Otto

Byter Steve, who suggested an Ask Otto regular feature, has also submitted the first items for that feature.

Steve writes:
Here is my first submission(s) for ASK OTTO. A couple of things that have always interested me, and I would love to know their origins :

Boxing Day? What’s with the “boxing” ?

And talking of boxing :

“seconds out”.....at the start of each round. Does this mean “time is out, so let’s get on with it” or does it mean “assistants out – assistants being the ‘seconds’ that attend to boxers during breaks?
Here are the responses:

Boxing Day:
The origin of Boxing Day can be traced back to Britain, where the day is also known as St Stephen’s Day (as in the Christmas carol words “Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen…”), but the actual origins are less clear. The day has long been associated with the giving of benefits to the poor, a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages.

There are a number of explanations as to how the Boxing Day name and the holiday came about:

• One explanation is that churches had metal boxes placed outside at St Stephen’s Feast for offerings for the poor.

• Another is that from about 1800, churches opened their alms boxes, used to collect money for the poor, on the day following Christmas Day. The contents were also distributed on that day.

• It is also the case that tradespersons in Victorian England would collect their “Christmas boxes”, or gifts, from the merchants for whom they worked on the day after Christmas Day, as a thank you for good and reliable service throughout the year.

• There is still another likely possibility, one that goes back to feudal days. The serfs, servants and other estate workers were given the day after Christmas Day off to spend with their families. They were also given a box with gifts, bonuses and leftover food.

• A variation on the above is that at Christmas, the various scattered workers of large estates came together for celebrations. To have all the workers together at the one time was a rare occurrence. After the celebrations were over, the lord of the manor used the opportunity to allocate and distribute the year’s stipend of necessities to the serfs, including cloth, leather goods, tools, equipment and durable food supplies. These were taken away in boxes.

Seconds out:

The phrase 'Seconds out!' is used by some boxing (and wrestling) officials to indicate that the fighters' ring crew (their 'seconds”) must leave the ring because the next round is about to begin e.g. "Seconds out! Round 2"’

In this sense it is the same as a duellist having a second, an attendant who assists his principal.

The word “second” originates from c 1300 from the Old French “second”, meaning after the first, which in turn comes from the Latin “secundus”, meaning following, the next in order.

The meaning of second in the sense of “seconds out”, that is, as a support in a fight, duel etc, is first recorded in the 1580’s. It comes from the Middle French “seconder”, which in turn comes from the Latin “secundare”, to assist.

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