"toke the wild hair" -- Query

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri May 31 07:00:58 UTC 2002

>... "toke the wild hair"

The "toke" is a mystery to me, perhaps a nonstandard past tense of "take"
(cf. "wake"/"woke")?

"Wild hair" is a mystery too, but at least it's one I'm familiar with:
"get/have a [wild] hair [up one's ass]" means either (1) "be[come]
irritable/fussy/excited" or (2) "get/have an [unusual] whim/notion". This
is in RHHDAS (vol. 2, p. 6), with a reference to the entry "wild hair"
which of course is not [yet] published.

An example from Usenet: "we got a wild hair and ran into town for a pizza".

The mystery here (at least to me) is how this expression came to be.
Lighter gives examples only since the 1950's, but "A Wild Hare" was the
title of one of the earliest Bugs Bunny cartoons, 1940 I think, and I'm
sure it was a play on the above expression or at least on some conventional
expression of that time. Sometimes it is said that the "wild hair" in the
rude expression is an ingrown inflamed perianal hair, but this seems
retrospective and bogus to me. There is/was an expression "get hared up"
meaning something like "get startled" and I wonder whether this mutated
into "get a hair up" which was then augmented and clarified in a rude
fashion (or maybe it went the other way!). Maybe there also was once a
conventional metaphor like "wild hare" = "irresponsible person" or so? Or
maybe "a wild hare" = "a wild idea" [for some reason] or even "a wild run"?

-- Doug Wilson

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