Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mad as a Hatter

As mad as a hatter
Completely mad. This is now commonly understood to mean crazy, although the original meaning is unclear and may have meant annoyed.
Mercury used to be used in the making of hats. This was known to have affected the nervous systems of hatters, causing them to tremble and appear insane. A neurotoxicologist correspondent informs me that "Mercury exposure can cause aggressiveness, mood swings, and anti-social behaviour.", so that derivation is certainly plausible - although there's only that circumstantial evidence to support it.

The use of mercury compounds in 19th century hat making and the resulting effects are well-established - mercury poisoning is still known today as 'Mad Hatter's disease'. That could be enough to convince us that this is the source of the phrase. The circumstantial evidence is rather against the millinery origin though and, beyond the fact that hatters often suffered trembling fits, there's little to link hat making to the coining of 'as mad as a hatter'.
information cited from Phrases, Sayings and Idioms
No, I haven't been playing with mercury, but I did spend some time yesterday in the baby hat factory.  Sara sounded the cry that she felt she didn't have enough hats for our little man (you know a lot of heat escapes through our cranium), so Gma went to work.  I was given full reign in the embroidery department, so I had some fun with embellishment.  Here are some of the hat designs:


The Slapdash Sewist said...


Summerset said...

Awww - those are super cute!

gwensews said...

What a good grandma you are! Keep that little head cool and comfy and warm in the winter!

gMarie said...

stinkin' adorable! I want a grandbaby. g

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