Meanings: “Madness”

May 4, 2012

This is madness in every way imaginable: 






Yes, Heartland Institute, since you asked, I do believe human-caused global warming is real — and perhaps preventable if we act now.  The evidence is overwhelming.  That Ted Kaczynski also believed in global warming (or in gravity, or in the wisdom of eating fruits and vegetables) doesn’t undercut my confidence one whit.

This from a thinktank whose mission (it tells us) “is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Apparently reason or evidence have nothing to do with how it promotes such solutions.  Heartland keeps confidential the identity of its funders claiming this is “standard practice by nonprofit advocacy organizations regardless of their philosophies.”

“Mad,” by the way, is a lovely three-letter Anglo Saxon word, though it didn’t start out as a three-letter word.  From

mad (adj.) Look up mad at
late 13c., from O.E. gemædde (pl.) “out of one’s mind” (usually implying also violent excitement), also “foolish, extremely stupid,” earlier gemæded “rendered insane,” pp. of a lost verb *gemædan “to make insane or foolish,” from P.Gmc. *ga-maid-jan, demonstrative form of *ga-maid-az “changed (for the worse), abnormal” (cf. O.S. gimed “foolish,” O.H.G. gimeit “foolish, vain, boastful,” Goth. gamaiþs “crippled, wounded,” O.N. meiða “to hurt, maim”), from intensive prefix *ga- + PIE *moito-, pp. of root *mei- “to change” (cf. L. mutare “to change,” mutuus “done in exchange,” migrare “to change one’s place of residence;” see mutable).

Emerged in M.E. to replace the more usual Old English word, wod (see wood (adj.)). Sense of “beside oneself with excitement or enthusiasm” is from early 14c. Meaning “beside oneself with anger” is attested from early 14c., but deplored by Rev. John Witherspoon (1781) as an Americanism. It now competes in Amer.Eng. with angry for this sense. Of animals, “affected with rabies,” from late 13c. Phrase mad as a March hare is attested from 1520s, via notion of breeding season; mad as a hatter is from 1829 as “demented,” 1837 as “enraged,” according to a modern theory supposedly from erratic behavior caused by prolonged exposure to poison mercuric nitrate, used in making felt hats. For mad as a wet hen see hen. Mad money is attested from 1922; mad scientist is from 1891.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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