First, let me say that I feel a childlike glee in using the S-word, as if I’m really sticking it to the Principal of WordPress by using cuss words in a title.
When did the phrase “batshit crazy” get so popular?
I read a lot of Cracked.com in my spare time. I’m not proud of it, but there you go. Seems like the writing staff over at Cracked must have it written into their contracts that they get to use “bat-shit crazy” or a variation thereof at least twice per article. I mean, I understand what the phrase means – it’s not just crazy, it’s like a super deluxe Texas-sized crazy with a side of deep-fried insane – but you’d think they’d be able to come up with another phrase to describe that particular level of crazy. Or maybe not. As far as I can tell the entire Cracked staff is male, and “bat-shit crazy” includes three essential elements of male humor: hilarious animals, excrement, and tragicomic psychological conditions. All it needs is a reference to breasts and it would be the perfect male descriptor: “That video game/sporting event was bat-shit crazy tits!”
As a student of the English language I naturally looked up the phrase using my two most trusted etymological resources, the Oxford English Dictionary and Google. Google boasted 297,000 hits for the phrase “batshit crazy” but couldn’t offer any more than speculation as to the origin of the phrase (some kind of disease suffered by guano miners, snooze). The OED likewise yielded nothing by way of the etymology of the phrase. However, it was interesting to note the first recorded usage of each of the elements of the phrase: bat appeared as bakke in C.E. 1340; shit appeared as schite in C.E. 1308; and crazy appeared as crasie in C.E. 1583. Knowing as we do that a) modern English words beginning in sh or sch began life as Scandinavian words beginning in sk, and b) bakke, with its hard b and double k, is obviously also of Norse derivation, it wouldn’t be too improbable to guess that Vikings were running around Northern Europe describing last night’s pillaging as totally “bakke-skite.”
My one criticism of the OED here would be that the most recently minted phrase containing the word shit is “shit happens” which dates back to 1983. A lifetime ago, I’m sure. So why doesn’t the Oxford English Dictionary update their idiom listing? Or, why doesn’t that laurelled institution lend a hand to the real experts in au current colloquialisms, UrbanDictionary.com, and help them come up with properly cited etymologies for slang phrases?
Do I sense a raison d’etre here? For the sake of my degree, let’s hope not.