Mad Word Origins

c.1400, “mental derangement characterized by excitement and delusion,” from L.L. mania “insanity, madness,” from Gk. mania “madness,” related to mainesthai “to rage, go mad,” mantis “seer,” menos “passion, spirit,” all from PIE *men- “to think, to have one’s mind aroused, rage, be furious” (see mind (n.)). Sense of “fad, craze” is 1689, from Fr. manie. Used since 1500s (in imitation of Gk.) as the second element in compounds expressing particular types of madness (cf. nymphomania, 1775; kleptomania, 1830; megalomania, 1890).

If you want to know the why of Mad Pride a good place to start would be with word origins. Before we get to the idea of Mad Pride though, let’s take a look at the origin of the words most often used to describe emotion distress these days, ‘mental’ coupled with ‘illness’. Let’s look then at the origins of that combination of words whose usage demarks the ascendancy of the medical model of mental health treatment. There are, of course, other models, Heidi Klum, for instance.

‘Mental’ is easy enough. ‘Mental’ derives obviously from ‘mind’. It goes back, I gather, to an Indo-European word for ‘think’. ‘Ill’ on the other hand is a little trickier. It doesn’t descend from ‘sick’ as one might automatically assume or suspect. No. That didn’t occur until the 15th century or so. Ill came from an Old Norse word for ‘bad’. So a mentally ill person in its original sense would mean a person who had bad thoughts, or a person who thought badly. Not such a desirable matter, wouldn’t you say?

‘Sane’ on the other hand in the original Latin meant ‘healthy’. Its use in expressions dealing with mental states prompted the English to adopt its use for such mental states as well. A lack of sanity, or insanity, then originally would have indicated the absence of health. The mental thing only came much later when the uncouth descendents of barbarous Teutonic Brits twisted a noble Roman word that harked back to the hayday of their empire to fit their own insidious purposes.

‘Lunatic’, a word that has bedeviled mad folk for ages, of course, derived from luna or ‘moon’, and more precisely, lunar, ‘of the moon’. The Latin lunaticus originally was used for “living on the moon”. We all know what that means. This word eventually came to represent the notion that certain people were afflicted by periodic bouts of insanity that came and went with the phases of the moon. The word ‘crazy’ through ‘crazed’ derived from ‘cracked’. A crazy person was a cracked, or a shattered person.

The word Mad goes back to an Indo-European word meaning ‘changed’, and as we all know change can be either for the better or for the worse. This leads us to the pride part of the matter. Pride derives, as you would expect, from ‘proud’. Proud developed when an Old French word was borrowed from a vulgar Latin word meaning ‘be beneficial’; in a more precise sense, the word meant to ‘be for’. The Old French ‘proud’ meant ‘good and brave’, and it is thought that the ‘high opinion of oneself’ use of the word may have developed from a particularly Anglo-Saxon slant given to a word used by their Norman overlords who, of course, spoke Old French.

So if Mad meant ‘changed’, and Pride meant ‘beneficial’, what the bleep could be wrong with that!? There are good and bad slants that can be given to both words today, but as you can see, it was never as black and white as one might have imagined it to have been. A madman or a mad woman would have been a man or a woman who had somehow altered, and given that they were proud, that alteration may have been into something better than they were before that change took place. Think of it that way and maybe this Mad Pride thing isn’t such a bad idea after all. Nope, if it were, it would be an ‘ill’ thing indeed.

If we were looking at the roots of the word ‘pride’ it is only fitting that we should also look at its antonym and opposite, ‘humility’. With ‘Humility’ ‘humiliate’ ‘humble’, we have brother, sister, and cousin words. ‘Humility’ came to mean “lowness, insignificance”, and was derived from ‘humble’ which came to mean ‘low, lowly’ from the earlier ‘close to the ground’. The word ‘humble’ actually was derived from the word for ‘humus’, or ‘earth’. Not exactly the best thought for a person in crisis and possibly contemplating suicide to have I would think.

I would also imagine that Mad Pride can have a positive value whereas it’s much harder for ‘mentally illness’ humility to do so. Cowering in the corner is much more befitting of ‘humility’ than it is of ‘pride’. Such cowering would also be much more likely to be interpreted by the psychiatric police as a ‘symptom’ of a ‘mental illness’. I say, go mad, and who cares what the blasted authorities think! Join our Mad Pride movement, and help us change the world from this uncaring one set on a path to its own self-destruction that the so called sane people have created to one that is more tolerant of difference, accepting and inhabitable.


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