[Ads-l] batshit

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 11 21:20:42 UTC 2016

The online Oxford Dictionary (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/batshit <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/batshit>) says that “batshit” is an adjective meaning completely crazy. That meaning seems odd to me (e.g., “she’s batshit” or “that’s a batshit idea") but Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/batshit <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/batshit>) and the Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=batshit <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=batshit>) concur.

I consider “batshit” to be an adverb particularly in collations such as “batshit crazy”, which Wiktionary and the UD have.

About the origin, the Wiktionary talk page (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Talk:batshit <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Talk:batshit>) has mention of an opinion on some forum that this usage of “batshit" comes from “bats in the belfry.” That expression has seemed dated to me for at least twenty years but could certainly be accurate given the dates and the contexts of the citations below. For “batshit crazy,” however, the irregular flitting movement of bats is a better metaphorical image to me.

"The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English” (http://bit.ly/2hjnjTb <http://bit.ly/2hjnjTb>, 2015, edited by Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor) have both parts of speech, the adjective to 1972 and the adverb to 1988.

1. "End Over End” (http://bit.ly/2hdKEbB <http://bit.ly/2hdKEbB>, 1946, by Nelson Gidding, date confirmed by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Gidding <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Gidding>).

… the evading American airman. Batshit. They …
Batshit. He was indulging in housemaids’ theology.
Batshit. You’ll never get a cigarette that way.

2. “The Longest Way Round” (http://bit.ly/2gPn7uj <http://bit.ly/2gPn7uj>, 1958 Google-dated, by Bart Cole) has the term three times. 

And the goddamn wire broke, he thought, when I felt the minute hand of that bat shit of a Judas clock stand up to me.
“Oh bat shit,” I said. “I’m going home.”
“Bat shit,” I said. “You do not have to go if you don’t want to.”

The dating seems accurate as per http://bit.ly/2hdPyoJ <http://bit.ly/2hdPyoJ> and http://bit.ly/2hBuBB7 <http://bit.ly/2hBuBB7>. But FWIW, "Return to the Beach” (http://bit.ly/2hBv1aN <http://bit.ly/2hBv1aN>, 1950 Google-dated, by Margaret Shedd) has the same Judas clock line.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list