Thursday, November 14, 2013

Crazy, Baby


When driving home with No 1 son last week and discussing the views of Christopher Hitchens, No 1 son used the expression “go batshit” to describe the reactions of some church groups towards Hitchens' views. It started me thinking about the origin of the expression, as well as of the related expression “go apeshit”. Was it related to the belief that disturbed monkeys and apes throw faeces? If so, then what do bats do?

Some comments:

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The Oxford English Dictionary lists “to go apeshit” as being a variant of “to go ape”, an expression meaning extreme anger, rage or disturbed behaviour, to lose control, to go crazy, much like the behaviour of enraged and disturbed monkeys and apes. 

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The earliest citation dates from 1955 where it has been identified as Air Force slang. It is likely that the expression was in use at Air Force bases, and possibly Marine bases, in the early 1950’s. 

US Flying Magazine in November 1954 records that the term “go ape-sweat” was in use at a US base in Greenland and meant “a guy has snapped his cap for some reason or other, usually because he got bad news from the girl friend.” It may very well be that the term “ape-sweat” was a printed substitute “for ape-shit”.

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It has been suggested that the addition of the word “shit” to the phrase “to go ape” acts as an instensifier, as with words such as chickenshit, bullshit, horseshit and dipshit.


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Which brings us to “batshit”.

Here again the Oxford English Dictionary provides assistance as to its origins, meanings and earliest recorded usages, with Australia also getting a guernsey: 

A worthless or contemptible thing; rubbish, nonsense. Cf. bullshit n. (1950 M. Shedd Return to Beach ii. 156: "I felt the minute hand of that bat shit of a Judas clock stand up to me.")  
Austral. Used in similative phrases as the type of something dull or uninteresting. Chiefly in boring as batshit. (1964 G. H. Johnston My Brother Jack iv. 58: "He would describe somebody as being ‘as silly as a two-bob watch’ or ‘dreary as bat-shit’.")  
Crazy, mad, insane. Cf. bats at bat *n*. 1 b. Orig. and freq. in to go batshit (cf. to go ape-shit atape n. Additions). (1971 W. Calley Lieutenant Calley 104: "Most of America's males were in Korea or World War II or I. They killed, and they aren't all going batshit.") 
As an intensifier, esp. in batshit crazy. (1993 Toronto Life Aug. 6/4: "His mug is emblazoned with the words: full-blown bat shit crazy.") 

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The association of “bats” and “batty” with insanity dates from the beginning of the 1900’s by reason of the phrase “bats in the belfry”. 

The term “batshit” appears to have originated about the same time and in the same circumstances as “apeshit” but at that time it meant nonsense, bullshit.  
From the 1970’s it came to mean insane and gave an overlap with “apeshit”; from the 1980’s the term “apeshit crazy” came into use.



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