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More pills

Posted by Pdianek on November 20, 2003

In Reply to: More pills posted by R. Berg on November 20, 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)

: : "In earlier times, I believe, pills were typically large and often bitter." Well, yeah, like 1960s penicillin, taken to combat streptococcus. Those things were HUGE. And foul.

: Uh, the 1960s are "earlier times" now? Did I just wake up from a Rip Van Winkle nap?

: Sorry, kids, do I need to explain who Rip was now?

My point was that "earlier times" sounds like 1800s, but even in the 1960s some pills were quite awful-tasting. And 1960s *is* the Dark Ages for some people -- "back in the day". It's always so, I expect, and colors our perceptions; I remember thinking that big band music (which my parents enjoyed) was too un-cool for words -- now my daughter swing-dances to it. Plus ça change....