Jesse received a question on Meebo this morning, but after I saw it, I switched questions with him because I thought it was so interesting! (In exchange, Jesse is now compiling demographic data on all 82 Mississippi counties. Pretty fair swap, I'd say.)
The question was: what's the origin of the term "file 13"?
File 13 is the trash can, as in, "Thanks for your memo; I've put it in File 13." Our friend Wikipedia tells us it's military in nature, so that's the direction I headed to find the rest of the story. A Dictionary of Soldier Talk says that the term simply means "wastebasket" and is synonymous with "circular file," which originated during World War II. It also adds that this is "the most useful article in an office" (61). War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War divides its terms by war, and "file 13" is found in the World War II section. Unfortunately, there are no additional clues to its origin, and our other slang dictionaries are no help, either.
However, looking through these books reveals that soldiers apparently give EVERYTHING a nickname; my guess is that "file 13" was just funny enough to make it out of the barracks and into general use. Some of the other slang terms that soldiers used during World War II that unfortunately never got an honorable discharge are the following:
cootie trap: a bed
drag an anchor: to have a blind date with an ugly or dull woman
dream sack: sleeping bag
eagle day: payday
fighting tools: eating utensils
germ: a person with gonorrhea
shivering Liz: Jell-O
spit kit: ashtray
walrus: one who cannot swim
I can't wait to use my fighting tools to eat some shivering Liz later!