Monday, September 26, 2011

Batty

From the tote bag of a woman who'd attended the Bay Area Tarot Symposium, or SF Bats (billed, according to somewhat-of-a-sponsor Daughters of Divination, as "the oldest continuously produced Tarot event in the world"):

just a little batty

It may have said "just a little bit batty," but I didn't copy it down. We were pulling into Grand Central. I was ready to de-train.

Batty is an amiable word. Picture Audrey Hepburn attempting to sit down to cocoa and singing marshmallows with the singer Mark Volman.

Apparently it took on its meaning of "dotty" and "eccentric" just before the 20th century put down deep roots; I wonder how that happened. The OED didn't clue me in much, not that it's supposed to. One of its citations includes this from Ambrose Bierce, 1907: He was especially charmed with the phrase ‘bats in his belfry’, and would indubitably substitute it for ‘possessed of a devil’, the Scriptural diagnosis of insanity.

Has anybody hypothesized whether batty is one of many words and expressions that represent a shift from religiously charged language?

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