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Stark raving mad

Posted by Gary Martin on January 05, 2007

In Reply to: Stark raving mad posted by David George on January 05, 2007

: Who know the origin of the phrase "Stark raving mad" and/or it's first recorded use.

One meaning of stark is 'vigorously' or 'to the fullest extent'. This was used as an intensifier to 'mad' in the original version of the phrase - 'stark mad'. That version was in use by 1489 when John Skelton used it in 'The Death of the Earl of Northumberland':

"I say, ye comoners, why wer ye so stark mad?"

'Raving', and before that 'staring' were added later as further intensifiers. Herny Fielding used 'stark raving mad' in 'The Intriguing Chambermaid', 1734 and that was probably the first usage:

"I find I am distracted! I am stark raving mad!"