[Ads-l] "March Madness" "Sweet Sixteen" and the like

Andy Bach afbach at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 10 20:42:36 UTC 2019

Was it that it was taken as a given that hatters, due to the use of mercury
in the, were generally mad?

The crazy Mad Hatter of *Lewis Carroll's* Alice in Wonderland is becoming
widely associated with the effects of Mercury on behavior as well as
physiology. *Mercury*
<https://www.corrosion-doctors.org/Elements-Toxic/Mercury.htm> was used to
process the felt hats used in England around Lewis' time. Erratic,
flamboyant behavior was one of the most evident alterations caused by
mercury. (Others included excessive drooling, mood swings, various
debilities.) (reference

But *Lewis Carroll* did not invent the phrase, although he did create the
character. The phrases '*mad as a hatter*' and "mad as a March hare" were
common at the time Lewis Carroll wrote (1865 was the first publication date
of Alice). The phrase had been in common use in 1837, almost 30 years

The earliest mention of a 'mad hatter' appears to refer to one Robert Crab,
a *17th Century* eccentric living at Chesham, England. He gave all his
goods to the poor and lived on dock leaves and grass. Carroll, however,
seems to have based his mad hatter not on Robert Crab, but on a certain
Theophilus Carter, not a hatter but a furniture dealer, who was known
locally as the Mad Hatter, partly because he always wore a top hat, and
partly because he was quite an eccentric and produced some wacky
inventions. Makers of felt hats would indeed often drool, tremble, talk to
themselves and have bouts of severe paranoia, for reasons that only became
clear later. Both in Europe and North America they were the eccentrics and
madmen of the clothing trades, which gave rise to the phrase as used today.
(reference <http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A882939>)


On Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 2:22 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> > On Apr 10, 2019, at 1:15 PM, Michael Everson <everson at EVERTYPE.COM>
> wrote:
> >
> > Of course in “A Mad Tea-Party” the March Hare is quite mad (the Hatter
> is not, and he is never called *Mad Hatter either by Carroll)
> It’s true that Carroll never identifies him as the *Mad* Hatter, but he
> (the Hatter, not Carroll) strikes me as being quite competitive in madness
> to the March Hare in that chapter. Gardner writes in The Annotated Alice
> that Tenniel, in illustrating the Mad Tea Party (
> https://www.nls.uk/exhibitions/treasures/alice-in-wonderland/tea-party),
> drew the Hatter, at Carroll’s own suggestion, “to resemble one Theophilus
> Carter, a furniture dealer near Oxford. Carter was known in the area as the
> Mad Hatter, partly because he wore a top hat…” And of course Tenniel’s
> Hatter wears that top hat with the large price sign, “In this style 10/6”.
> Tenniel also drew the Hatter as a spitten image of Bertrand Russell, who
> was born five years after the publication of Alice’s Adventures in
> Wonderland, but that’s another story.
> LH
> > but there is also the story the Dormouse tells of the three sisters with
> all the alliteration of things beginning with M:
> >
> > ‘They were learning to draw,’ the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing
> its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; ‘and they drew all manner of
> things — everything that begins with an M— … such as mouse-traps, and the
> moon, and memory, and muchness — you know you say things are “much of a
> muchness”— did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?’
> >
> > Michael Everson
> >
> >> On 29 Mar 2019, at 18:58, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> >>
> >> Last year I started a thread about this here.
> >> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2018-March/151255.html
> >>
> >> I recently posted a piece summarizing my findings on "March Madness",
> "Sweet Sixteen," "Elite Eight", "Cinderella" teams and the "Big Dance."
> >>
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2019/03/sweet-elite-madness-alliterative.html
> >>
> >> I didn't find anything earlier than the 1927 "Sweet Sixteen" I
> mentioned here last year, although I did find some new, early examples from
> 1928, also in Indiana.
> >>
> >> I didn't find anything earlier than the 1931 example of "March Madness"
> Barry Popik found previously.  I did, however, provide examples of earlier
> meanings of "March madness," including one common usage relating to bad
> weather.
> >>
> >> The 1931 example appears to play off the weather-related usage.  Under
> the headline, "March Madness," it refers to a number of recent upsets in
> the tournament as "flurries".  It does not unambiguously refer to the
> tournament itself as "March madness," although the inspiration for the
> expression is clearly there.
> >> https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/march_madness
> >>
> >> I haven't seen any other examples until 1937 when it becomes common,
> and was used at that time in both Indiana and Michigan.  It might be older,
> but no examples in print other than the 1931 example.
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org



Andy Bach,
afbach at gmail.com
608 658-1890 cell
608 261-5738 wk

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

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