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Re: Off your trolley (wheel)

Posted by ESC on May 11, 2002

In Reply to: Re: Off your trolley posted by The Fallen on May 11, 2002

: : : : Where does the phrase " off your trolley " come from.

: : : OFF YOUR TROLLEY - "adj. British. deranged, unstable, crazy. A variation on the 'off one's block' theme which has been popular in British speech since the 1970s. The original image evoked may be of a child losing control of a cart or scooter, or of a patient falling from a mobile stretcher or frame." From "Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (Pantheon Books, New York, 1990).

: : British!? since the 1970s!?

: : _The American Thesaurus of Slang_ lists it on entries "150.5 STUPID" & "152.5 INSANE; CRAZY."

: :
: : Jonathon Green, in _Cassell's Dictionary of Slang_ , writes: "The Manhattan trolley, which were not allowed overhead cbles (as were those in Brooklyn) after so many came down in the hurricane of 1888, picked up their supply from an electrified third rail and so if the car became derailed, its power was lost."

: : ------------

: : The medium is clear off her trolley, for my father has been dead three years. (Davenport, _Butte Beneath X-Ray_, 1908)

: :
: : Regards,
: : masakim

:
: As a Brit, I'd assumed this was a US expression relating to trams (aka trolley-cars) that I've only heard over here in the last 20 years or so. It certainly wasn't around in London when I was at school - if looking for a similar construct, we might possibly have said that someone was "off his rocker"... and don't ask me where that comes from :)

"In the 1890s the 'motorman' was also called a 'motorer' ('motor' + engineer) and the sight of him getting out of the streetcar to reposition the trolley wheel back on the overhead wire was so common that by 1896 'to be off one's trolley,' to be crazy, was a popular expression." From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).