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The meaning and origin of the expression: Fly off the handle

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Fly off the handle


Lose self control.


This is an American phrase and it alludes to the uncontrolled way a loose axe-head flies off from its handle. It is first found in print in Thomas C. Haliburton's The Attaché; or, Sam Slick in England, 1843/4:

"He flies right off the handle for nothing."

Haliburton was an inventive writer and had a hand in the coining of several commonly used phrases:

Ginger up
Won't take no for an answer

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.