If you'll take a moment to peruse yesterday's post, you'll notice that the word bedlam comes from an asylum called Bedlam in London. It goes even more in-depth if you consider that another term for "craziness" also originates in a London mental institution: barking mad. Apparently, there's a neighborhood in the fancy part of Britain's capital called Barking, and in it is a renowned religious building called Barking Abbey, which (you guessed it) used to be a mental institution. Soon enough, barking mad was applied to people who were as insane as the ones from the real barking, and the origin, being forgotten throughout time due to that correlation with dogs, influenced other terms such as howling mad. I have to issue a slight disclaimer, here, though, because it is in fact possible that barking does indeed refer to the onomatopoeic sound dogs make. The origin, as I said, is obscure, and like those of many words, only theorized at. But just think how whimsical it would be! How serendipitous! How intriguing! Call me barking mad, but I want it to be true.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd