"toke the wild hair" -- Query

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri May 31 11:36:26 UTC 2002

If this contamination is so, it is not the only "hare-hair"
confusion. A substantial number of people I know believe that there
is a physical condition known as "hairlip." I reckon they have not
shot as many of the little critters as I have and looked em in the


>>... "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

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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