Posted by ESC on September 18, 2002
In Reply to: Barking Mad posted by TheFallen on September 18, 2002
: : : Can someone
tell me the origins of the term "Barking Mad".
: : : Thanks!
: : The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't list this phrase under either word. Possibly "barking mad" originated to describe people who were mentally ill with symptoms of hyperactivity and aggression, like a barking dog, or actually barked like dogs. Or perhaps it has to do with rabies. The OED says the use of "mad" for rabid animals seems to have begun late in the history of the word. The examples of this use start in the 16th century.
: I've always presumed (though with no evidence) that this phrase was in some way connected with "barking at the moon" and lunacy.
Right you are.
BARKING - "adj. British. demented. A short form of 'barking mad', evoking utter howling craziness, this expression is typically heard in upper- and middle-class speech, often preceded by 'absolutely'." From the "Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (Pantheon Books, New York, 1990).