Doug from Traverse City
asked about the word pigeonhole. As a verb, it means the tactic of dumping an idea or a person into a limited type or category—usually unilaterally. The effect is to marginalize someone, to stymie him or her, to
render the person unable to act effectively.
The original pigeonhole
was a small recess or compartment occupied by a roosting domestic pigeon. The
setting was usually a loft or a rooftop walk-in cage. The word was also applied
to a small door used by pigeons entering their enclosure.
By analogy, the noun was
used to describe open compartments set on top of a desk. They were used to sort
and store mail, business documents, etc. This intensified the concept of a
person or an idea being set aside, compartmentalized, put on indefinite time
At various times,
according to the Oxford English
Dictionary, pigeonhole also referred to an excessively wide space between
two words, a cubicle or small subdivision of a room, or a seat in the top row
of a theater gallery.
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