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View Full Version : A wild hair or a wild hare?


AskNott
11-06-2001, 04:17 PM
Around here, (in central Indiana) "a wild hare (or hair)" is an expression that means an impulsive, crazy pursuit, such as driving an hour each way to get a bowl of spicy stew at the Mousetrap or leaving work in the middle of 3rd shift to go fishing 80 miles away. Anyway, there are two ways to say it. Either "he went off on a wild hare," which suggests suddenly following a long-eared critter, or "he got a wild hair up his ass," which suggests leaping up from personal discomfort.

Is either of these versions "correct?" Does one predate the other? Do folks even say that in your neck of the woods?

WordMan
11-06-2001, 04:53 PM
Well, not much luck on Google, Merriam Webster, Roger's Profanisaurus (but it is a fun site to check!), the Word Detective, or the Maven's Word of the Day. I tried Bartleby.com and found references to "mad as a marsh (or march) hare", but the link between that and "wild hare" are clear from that site. Then there's the reggae club near Wrigley Field in Chicago, The Wild Hare, but that's another story...

I always assumed it was "Wild Hair" - as in wild hair up his ass - meaning acting all fidgety, etc. as though you had a wild....well, you get the idea, but I couldn't track down a reference.

That's all for now - oh, I didn't search the SDMB yet, 'cuz it's so darn slow this time of day....

The Stafford Cripps
11-06-2001, 05:03 PM
"Hare" exists as a verb, such as to hare around; to run around like a hare. Perhaps the Indiana expression "off on a wild hare" is a case of a noun being made from a verb that was made from a noun, if you get my drift.

lurker b
11-06-2001, 06:01 PM
I always thought the phrase was wild TEAR. Dictionary.com gives one definition of tear as to move with heedless speed; rush headlong. It also has a slang definition of a carousal; a spree. Too, it lists the phrase tear around and defines that as to move about in excited, often angry haste. To lead a wild life. I've never heard the phrase wild hair or hare. Is it possible that this phrase was misheard?

The Stafford Cripps
11-06-2001, 06:32 PM
Originally posted by lurker b
I always thought the phrase was wild TEAR. Dictionary.com gives one definition of tear as to move with heedless speed; rush headlong. It also has a slang definition of a carousal; a spree. Too, it lists the phrase tear around and defines that as to move about in excited, often angry haste. To lead a wild life. I've never heard the phrase wild hair or hare. Is it possible that this phrase was misheard?

I hadn't thought of that, but Chambers English Dictionary does give hare as a verb with a similar meaning. Given that the two words also sound similar, they're probably used interchangably.

samclem
11-06-2001, 10:54 PM
I'd be surprised if there is any in-print reference to a phrase other than "wild hair."

My Ligher cites from 1952, Leon Uris, Battle Cry [ref.to WWII]: Jesus, he sure got a wild hair up him.

It was no doubt a phrase not uncommon in WWII. Just how much before that is speculative.

I seriously doubt any reference to a hare.

judyann449
07-23-2015, 07:41 PM
I thought it was wild hair, too. That's why I Googled wild hare - which led me to this forum. Found this in a novel:

"I just kept thinking Cam had caught a wild hare and would turn up again anytime. "

From Greywalker by Kat Richardson

jebert
07-24-2015, 04:57 PM
I have always heard it as "wild hair (up his ass)." That's from a couple of states west of Indiana.

The Great Sun Jester
07-24-2015, 05:28 PM
I always assumed it was "Wild Hair" - as in wild hair up his ass - meaning acting all fidgety, etc. as though you had a wild....well, you get the idea, This.

Welcome, judyann449. Prepare to be inundated with undead jokes. :)

Ignatz
07-25-2015, 06:45 PM
"across" not "up"

JNBrady
09-30-2015, 12:31 PM
I was raised in N. Florida in the 1960s & 1970s, and distinctly recall "wild hare" being used in the phrase "going off on a wild hare" or "going off on a wild hare expedition". This could well be a reference to Alice in Wonderland's following the White Rabbit We used it to refer to going on impulsive jaunts just for the heck of it.

SpyOne
09-30-2015, 09:48 PM
I always thought the phrase was wild TEAR. Dictionary.com gives one definition of tear as to move with heedless speed; rush headlong. It also has a slang definition of a carousal; a spree. Too, it lists the phrase tear around and defines that as to move about in excited, often angry haste. To lead a wild life. I've never heard the phrase wild hair or hare. Is it possible that this phrase was misheard?

This.

My father, who hailed from Central New York State (and whose grandfather moved from Minnesota in the late 1800s), used the phrases "go off on a wild tear" and "had a wild hair up his ass".

"To be clear, that's the pronunciation of "tear" that rhymes with "hare", not the one that rhymes with "deer".

By his usage, to go off on a wild tear was to engage in frenzied activity, while having a wild hair up your ass was to engage in work to no obvious purpose. Like ordering a vacuum cleaner, extra bags, and a bunch of cleaning supplies from Amazon might be a wild tear, but reading 15 different webpages on ancient roman shipbuilding is more likely the result of a wild hair.

Since WWII is mentioned, my father was 10 when it ended, so he may have picked the phrase up from young men when he was a teenager.

dracoi
09-30-2015, 09:57 PM
Are you sure it's not a wild tare?

I heard that insane asylums used to have problems with their scales so...

simply_cats
10-01-2015, 09:48 PM
All my life, it's been "wild hair." In my innocence, I always just left it at that, but I tend to use it in the more "wild hair up his ass" way.

SCAdian
10-01-2015, 10:29 PM
All my life, it's been "wild hair." In my innocence, I always just left it at that, but I tend to use it in the more "wild hair up his ass" way.

Michigander here. I agree with the above.

Anaglyph
10-02-2015, 06:35 AM
I only knew the expression as "chasing a wild hare" - as going into a seemingly unmotivated zig-zag course towards your goal, rather than in a straight line. e.g. "A Wild Hare (1940) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033260/)"

Uncle Genie
10-21-2015, 06:49 PM
A Baby Boomer from Toledo, Ohio, I'd always heard this as "getting (or having) a wild hair up (his) ass" among our elders, which my contemporaries and I shortened to "getting a wild hair." The expression described someone abruptly pursuing an odd or risky course without apparent forethought: He got this wild hair and, next thing ya' know, he's a marine. The precipitous action was analogous to the unseemly behaviors one might use attempting to relieve a sudden rectal itch. I considered "wild hare" in this idiom to be one more of the homophone variances, e.g., butt naked for buck naked, which seem more common as they're shared on the internet. Then again, language is dynamic.

Exapno Mapcase
10-21-2015, 07:42 PM
I only knew the expression as "chasing a wild hare" - as going into a seemingly unmotivated zig-zag course towards your goal, rather than in a straight line. e.g. "A Wild Hare (1940) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033260/)"

Is that pretty obviously a pun on the usual "wild hair"?

Atamasama
10-22-2015, 05:33 PM
I know the expression "wild hair up his ass" from my mom who is from Ohio. So maybe it's a Midwest thing. I live in the Pacific Northwest and haven't heard it often from anyone else.

The context she uses it in is identical to what others have mentioned.

I've also heard "go off on a wild tear" from various sources over the years, and it does mean to engage in frenetic activity. I think these are separate terms that only bear a phonetic similarity.

Jeff Lichtman
10-23-2015, 03:12 AM
Could this expression be related to "mad as a March hare" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_as_a_March_hare)?

Little Nemo
10-23-2015, 03:32 AM
Thinking about it, a wild hare makes more sense than a wild hair. Rabbits appear to act crazy during their springtime breeding season (which explains references to March hares and Bugs Bunnies) so acting like a wild hare would be a natural metaphor to rural people. Saying somebody had a wild hare up their ass would just be a more scatological version of that metaphor.

digs
10-23-2015, 09:35 AM
I'm three hours from Indiana and never heard it. But if I did, I'd turn to the speaker and ask "What does having a stray hair in your rectum have to do with dangerous or wild behavior?"

Unless it makes sense to Hoosiers to think "Gee, I feel like I've got an ingrown hair in my butt -- I know! I'll leave work in the middle of 3rd shift to go fishing 80 miles away, then drive an hour each way to get a bowl of spicy stew at the Mousetrap."

Inner Stickler
10-24-2015, 12:15 AM
The traditional expression is definitely hair and not hare.

BigT
10-25-2015, 10:47 PM
Thinking about it, a wild hare makes more sense than a wild hair. Rabbits appear to act crazy during their springtime breeding season (which explains references to March hares and Bugs Bunnies) so acting like a wild hare would be a natural metaphor to rural people. Saying somebody had a wild hare up their ass would just be a more scatological version of that metaphor.

The one that makes more sense is very often a correction. Consider "just desserts" or "another thing coming."

I personally always thought it was "hare," and even pulled up memories of seeing it written that way when I saw the question. The same for the other two.

DrCube
10-26-2015, 01:55 PM
I've heard "wild goose chase", which I think some people are using "chasing a wild hare" to mean. But getting a "wild hair up his ass" is different. "Goose chase" means you are looking for something you'll never find. "Wild hair" (which I've often seen as "getting a bug up your ass") means to get the urge to do something weird or wild out of the blue. I've always used the "hair/bug" version, but I wouldn't be surprised if another version came first and evolved into several slightly different versions.