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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.