Wednesday, 11 January 2012
A student in today’s ‘Ways of Reading’ workshop is hoping that a friend’s term ‘banerk’ will catch on - it’s a mixture of ‘bananas’ and ‘berserk’. ‘Berserk’ came from an Icelandic term for ‘battle-crazed warrior’ and was originally used as a noun rather than an adjective. My favourite berserk or berserker is the Isle of Lewis chesspiece in the British Museum, who appears to be eating the top of his shield. Does ‘to go bananas’ mean to be 'stupid-mad’ or ‘angry-mad’? Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English doesn’t have ‘bananas’ in any sense of ‘crazy’, but the OED quotes A J Pollock’s Underworld Speaks (1935) to give the meaning of ‘sexually perverted’. The idea that ‘going bananas’ has some physiological link to the high amounts of sucrose and potassium in the fruit is sadly unlikely.