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More pills

Posted by ESC on November 19, 2003

In Reply to: Don't be such a pill posted by R. Berg on November 19, 2003

: : : : Where did "Don't be such a pill," or the use of "pill" to describe something lame, come from?

: : : My guess... it comes from the phrase "Take a chill pill." which means "relax" or "don't get excited".

: : Could it be short for 'pillock', a colloquial British word for a dumb or stupid person - at least in the eyes of the speaker?

: "Take a chill pill" must be too recent to be the origin. The Oxford English Dictionary gives "An objectionable person; a bore" as a slang sense of "pill," with the earliest example dated 1897. In a similar sense, "pill" means anything that people don't like to "swallow" or endure. These meanings come from the reluctance with which people swallow medicinal pills. In earlier times, I believe, pills were typically large and often bitter.

pill = teacher. (1920s)
pill = disagreeable person. (1930s)
THE pill = birth control method. (1960s)
pill = basketball. (Hip-Hop & Rap)
From "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996)