In some British private schools the phrase "dob the pill" is a request that someone should throw the ball to you. The Internet is almost completely silent on this phrase with the only use I can find in the first comment at http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/afl/pieces-of-the-power-puzzle/story-fn83zjlm-1226049635520 where it says "With his build Ebert would be a better back pocket where he could dob the pill deep over centre.".

What is the origin of this phrase?


It's not a phrase but informal English. According to the ODE, "dob" means:

ORIGIN 1950s: figurative use of dialect dob ‘put down abruptly’, later ‘throw something at a target’.

And pill, according to the same source, means

3 informal, dated (in some sports) a humorous term for a ball.

Now if put together, it'd simply mean throw the ball.

  • "dob" is apparently from "dab" as in "1772 G. Washington in Mag. Amer. Hist. May (1884) 71 They [clothes] will be..dabbed about, in every hole and corner." – felix Feb 9 '14 at 10:37
  • "pill" meaning ball has this quotation "1896 Westm. Gaz. 28 Oct. 1/3 We can play pills then till lunch, you know." – felix Feb 9 '14 at 10:39
  • It sounds the sort of language (I've never heard this particular one) that is cultivated in public schools so that posh kids can give expression to their social status, a bit like joining the Bullingdon Club. – WS2 Feb 9 '14 at 10:54
  • @WS2 It's more likely that idiosyncratic and strange sounding language is a feature of being isolated in a boarding school. It would be interesting to see what phrases the state boarding schools of the UK have developed. – felix Feb 9 '14 at 11:00
  • @felix Yes, good point. Could look at prisons as well. They have their own lingo, and bear a lot in common with boarding schools, I feel sure. – WS2 Feb 9 '14 at 11:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.