"stark" = insane

Chris F Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Wed Jul 18 15:39:14 UTC 2007

Laurence Horn wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "stark" = insane
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 7:12 AM -0700 7/18/07, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>> On Jul 18, 2007, at 6:50 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:
>>> OED lacks British slang "stark," adj., meaning "crazy."
>> a clipping of "stark ravers" or "stark raving mad", involving "stark"
>> 'to the fullest extent or degree; absolutely, utterly,
>> quite' (OED)'?  (OED has "stark raving mad", "stark staring mad", and
>> "stark ravers"
> The OED also has "starkers", for either 'stark naked' or 'stark
> raving mad'.  I think I've come upon this in Bridget Jones or a
> similar place, definitely British.  (I no longer remember which of
> these senses was intended.)

I've certainly heard "starker" in both senses in conversations here in

However, I just asked the (native British English speaking) colleague
what "starker" evokes for him, and he replied "nude". He wouldn't employ
it in the sense of "mad".


Chris Waigl

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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