These days novels and films are filled with quirky characters. What exactly is quirky, & what words come close to meaning the same thing?
The word quirky was born in 1806, when it meant shifty. It came from the 1500s word quirk, which meant evasion. It wasn’t until 1960 that quirky meant idiosyncratic.
Coined by Hunter S. Thompson, the word gonzo came to English in 1971, meaningweird, bizarre, idiosyncratic. Though we’re not 100% certain, & Thompson’s gonzo leanings have kept him tight-lipped on the matter, gonzo may have been inspired by an Italian word meaning rude & sottish, or a Germanic word for goose.
In the 1400s, nutty meant nut-like. By the 1820s, it meant in love, & by 1898 it came to mean unbalanced or idiosyncratic.
Someone who is aberrant is wandering from the usual course. We’ve had this word since 1798. Its initial usage applied generally to the animal and plant kingdoms.
Since 1938 we’ve had the word off-beat (or offbeat). It was born in the world of music, & was almost immediately applied to idiosyncratic humans.
The Old English word utlendisc referred to the customs or people of a foreign country. In time, xenophobia & discomfort with “other” took their toll on this word’s meaning. The word it has become, outlandish, now means odd or bizarre.
In 1866 the word screwball referred to an unexpected sort of pitch in the game of cricket. By 1928, baseball welcomed screwball into its lexical arms to refer to an erratic pitch. By 1938, Carol Lombard’s comedy got labeled screwball comedy, & ever since, the word screwball can be used to identify a person who is unbalanced or idiosyncratic.
In the comments section, I’m hoping you’ll nominate a character from fiction or the silver screen who might be defined with one of the above words.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the Merriam Webster, OED, Collins Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary, & Etymonline.
There are conversations occurring these days regarding the appropriateness of using words like crazy in reference to our fellow human beings, however, with the pandemic & isolation & politics & all that's going on, it seems the world itself is a bit crazy. So here’s a look at a small percentage of the many words and idioms referring to craziness.
The word loop came from a Celtic word meaning bend. Its related adjective, loopy, entered the language in 1825. Loopy's literal meaning was full of loops & its figurative meaning was cunning & deceitful. In 1923 loopy picked up a second figurative meaning, crazy.
The Old English word hnutu, meaning hard seed, gave us the word nut. Its adjective form, nutty meant nut-like back in the 1400s, but by the 1800s nutty began meaning crazy. This started at a time when nut was a synonym for head. We still see that meaning in the idiom off one’s nut, which brings us back to ways of saying crazy.
Wacky, or whacky, was born in 1935 of the idea that anyone who’d been whacked in the head might get a little, well, loopy. Also from the notion of being whacked in the head, the word bonkers, meaning crazy, showed up in 1957. It seems to have sprung forth from its 1948 definition, a bit drunk.
One could say the history of the word unhinged is a bit unhinged. The earliest use of the term came from 1612 & oddly, was the figurative meaning, a disordered mind. It wasn’t until 1616 that someone wrote down unhinge in its literal sense, to remove a door from its hinges. Odder still, it took until 1758 for someone to write down the verb hinge.
Any thoughts on all this craziness? If so, please express yourself in the comments section. Also, feel free to suggest your favorite colorful synonyms for crazy. There are a bunch I haven’t yet covered.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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