Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Going Haywire ...

I've really got to stop saying things out loud. Too many questions ensue.

Yesterday, for example, talking with Joyce, I used the term haywire. I stopped. Wondered. Said aloud, "I wonder where that comes from?!?"

Now I know. And now--if you're doughty enough to read on--you will know, also.

According to Merriam-Webster, the term (which, of course, refers to the wire used to bale hay) came to mean fouled up, etc. because of this: so called from the frequent use of baling wire to make makeshift repairs.  So, yeah, something's messed up--let's get some haywire. Not hard to see that evolution/connection.

Let's see what the OED says--dated back to 1905:

1. Poorly equipped, roughly contrived, inefficient, esp. hay-wire outfit (from the practice of using hay-wire for makeshift repairs). orig. U.S.

1905   Terms Forestry & Logging (Bull. U.S. Dept. Agric., Bureau Forestry, No. 61) 39   Hay wire outfit, a contemptuous term for loggers with poor logging equipment.
1931   ‘D. Stiff’ Milk & Honey Route 207   A haywire outfit is something that is all tied and patched together.
1934   Notes & Queries 166 13/1,   I first heard ‘hay~wire’ in the summer of 1929, when I was living in northern New York State. There is also the expression ‘haywire outfit’, a job on which poor living accommodations are provided for the workers. Also an inefficient factory or shop.
1959   Listener 26 Feb. 388/2   A haywire, unpredictable, one-man business.

1968   R. M. Patterson Finlay's River 145   The..irritating, because man-made, chaos attendant on the intrusion of a haywire railroad into the ordered life of the frontier now lay behind them.

But when applied to a person ... the OED has some examples of great interest to me.

a. Of a person, circumstances, etc.: in an emotional state, tangled, involved, confused, crazy. colloq. (orig. U.S.).

1934   J. O'Hara Appointment in Samarra vii. 226   A married man..and absolutely haywire on the subject of another woman.
1939   W. Faulkner Wild Palms 223   Now you can eat something. Or do you think that will send you haywire again?
1942   D. Powell Time to be Born (1943) xiv. 330   Everything seems so haywire, lately.
1955   ‘E. C. R. Lorac’ Ask Policeman viii. 89   The time element's all haywire.

The first three examples are from writers I know a bit about! Appointment in Samarra was the first novel by John O'Hara; I've been reading the lesser-known Faulkner novels in recent weeks; and Dawn Powell, whose girlhood home in Mt. Gilead, OH, Joyce and I visited a couple of years ago--and whose novels I'm heading into after Faulkner's, novels available through the Library of America, novels edited by a FB friend Tim Page!

One more: I checked the authoritative Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang--and found that it confirms all of the above--but lists many other sources, including Sinclair Lewis and Raymond Chandler.

Finally, searching for an image to perch atop this page, I was reminded that Haywire is also the title of a film (2011) directed by Steven Soederbergh. (Link to trailer for the film.)

Enough ... all of this is driving me haywire!

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