Posted by R. Berg on April 29, 2001
In Reply to: Dice & boxcars posted by Bob on April 29, 2001
: : I met a line in READER'S DIGEST: 'You roll the dice and they come up boxcars'. Does anyone know what this means?
: : The context is: the speaker's daughter will soon lose her eyesight due to some inborn disease. So he drives the little girl everywhere to let her see as much things as possible before she can't see anything... I'm not sure if the father is using this line to express his deep sadness.
: : What precisely does it mean?
: : Thank you!
: In many dice games, but especially craps, rolling two sixes, "boxcars," is an automatic loss. Instant bad luck. Now someone else may be able to tell us why sixes are related to covered railroad cars... but I can only speculate that a fully-loaded boxcar on a train track is somehow equivalent to a six on a die which is as fully loaded as a side gets.
The history in the Dictionary of American Slang makes the derivation clear. One meaning for "boxcar" as an adjective: "Long, high, as in 'long odds,' 'high odds.' (Mainly racetrack use; from the high numbers frequently seen on the sides of railroad freight cars.)" Another meaning for "boxcars" as a plural noun: "In craps, a throw of double-6 . . . the highest number in craps, a 12."