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Re: Going round the bend

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 06, 2010 at 18:35

In Reply to: Going round the bend posted by Felix Windham on April 06, 2010 at 07:22:

: My sociology lecturer was telling me the other day about the origins of the saying "going round the bend" that its relationship with "going mad" literally comes from the way asylums were always situated in the past with a road leading to the asylum which was almost bent at a 45 degree angle and with trees lining each side of the road obscuring the asylum from the general public or community it was sited in. So if you were told by someone you were "going round the bend" they're telling you that your a candidate for being driven up to mental institution. Any origins of this?

Personally, I wouldn't believe anything I was taught by someone whose bullsh*t detectors were defective enough to swallow that one! It's nonsense.
(a) As you'll learn here: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-rou2.htm the earliest reference to this saying predates the building of most public asylums and states that it is specifically nautical slang. Quinion remarks that the metaphor is close in meaning to "loopy"; Brewer's "Phrase and Fable" suggests that it is related to the metaphor contained in "having funny/queer turns"; i.e. that a person who just has queer turns may still be more or less OK but if you go beyond having queer turns and go "right round the bend" you're completely mad. At any rate, the metaphor appears to be to the twists of one's mind, not a carriage drive. (The more so as Victorians preferred their carriage drives to be curved ina fine elegant sweep, so even if asylum drives had routinely had a bend in them, that wouldn't have made them in any way special.) (VSD)