In Reply to: Mad as a wet hen posted by Gary Martin on May 05, 2010 at 08:21:
: : My Grandmother used lots of phrases that I've wondered about. Two of them, not listed, are : 1) Going to Hell in a handbasket and 2) Mad as a wet hen. Does anyone have any info on these phrases?
: There's a page on the first one at http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hell-in-a-handbasket.html
Ms. Ogilvie, was your grandmother an American? "Mad as a wet hen" appears to be an Americanism. The first use of it found by the Oxford English Dictionary is in a work published in 1823 by Joseph Doddridge, "Dialogue of the Backwoodsman & the Dandy, first recited at the Buffaloe seminary, July the 1st, 1821": "Every body that was not ax'd was *mad as a wet hen."
How mad is a wet hen? Try throwing or spraying water on one and find out. In this phrase, mad means angry, not insane.