Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
In college, I scheduled my classes so that I would always be free Friday mornings through mid-afternoon. This was for the express purpose of going to the first screening of whatever new movie was playing at the (now closed) Cheri theater near Boylston and Mass Aves. The first showtime started between 10 and 11 and was the cheapest of the day, so I made a concerted effort to go almost every week.
On October 6, 1999, the movie was David Fincher’s FIGHT CLUB and I was unusually pumped for it. After the one-two punch of SE7EN and THE GAME, I was all-in on Fincher and a fantastic cover story in EW had hinted that this movie was going to be my kind of candy.
And it was. Almost fifteen years later, FIGHT CLUB remains one of my top-5 movies. It’s always playing in the cineplex in my brain, and I sit down to rewatch it maybe once a year at home, but I hadn’t seen it on the big screen again since ’99 because I hadn’t lived in a city awesome enough to do so. Until now.
La Cinémathèque française (site) projected FIGHT CLUB earlier this year and I was there. Quite literally the first person in line to buy a ticket, over an hour before the screening, because I was determined to get the best seat in the house or else some space monkey was gonna get worse than a lye kiss on the hand from me. I may not be a unique snowflake, but I was the happiest snowflake in Paris that day.
EN → box office — a place at a theater or other arts establishment where tickets are bought or reserved. ORIGIN probably from the taking of money for “box seats” in theaters.
ES → taquilla — Casillero para los billetes de teatro, ferrocarril, etc. [Cabinet for passing theater, rail, etc. tickets.] ORIGIN Diminutive form of Hispanicized Arabic ṭáq[a] from Farsi ṭāq [: window].
FR → guichet — Petite ouverture dans une porte, dans un mur, par laquelle on peut parler à qqn ou faire passer des choses. [Small opening in a door or a wall through which one can speak with someone or pass something.] ORIGIN Old Norse vik [: bay window].
→ English note — “box office” has come to mean “total grosses” in the parlance of Hollywood, but it’s still the actual place you go for tickets.
→ Spanish note — I wish tacos or taquitos were somehow connected to this word. I <3 Mexican food the most.
→ French note — the definition is very broad and many other things qualify as a guichet, but in my experience, the place where you buy movie tickets are most typically called that.
Everyone’s a winner today because going to the movies is the real prize! (That’s a lie. “Everyone” can’t be winners.) Spanish wins because it introduced me to a crazy new character, a “t” with a dot underneath, which I will enlarge here so that you can see it better.