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Scared out of my wits

Posted by ESC on September 30, 2010 at 20:42

In Reply to: Scared out of my wits posted by ESC on September 30, 2010 at 19:59:

: : What are the origins of the phrase "scared out of my wits"?

Good question as we approach Halloween.

: It means, of course, too scared to think clearly. I am wondering if it has anything to do with the belief that in times of stress, a person's soul leaves the body. As in, being "beside yourself."

" is quite old. Thomas Babington Macauley reflected it in his 'Essay on Clive' (1840): 'The governor...was frightened out of his wits.'" "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985). Page 228. Another reference expands on that and says the expression is even older. Scared silly/stiff/to death -- Frightened "out of his wits," Commentary, Bishop Simon Patrick, 1697. Later Jonathan Swift and Sir Walter Scott used "scared out of one's seven senses." Scared silly came later. "Facts on File Dictionary of Cliches," second edition, edited by Christine Ammer, Checkmark Books, New York, 2006, Page 372.