Etymology of expressions for sudden, unreasoning rage

The recent and tragic high-profile attack on a woman in Connecticut by a long-time “domiciled” chimpanzee brought home the accuracy of the expression, “to go ape shit on <X>”. I imagined that maybe, similar incidents in the past gave rise to the expression in the first place.

Then I noticed someone using the expression “<X,Y> are batshit crazy” in another thread, and wondered: is there, in fact, some kind of madness linked to mining guano?

For that matter, where could these expressions possibly have arisen from? What does it really mean to say that someone:

  • “Flew off the handle” (is this a person, or a bird perched on a snow shovel?)
  • “Went nuts” (Why nuts and what kind? Pistachio, Almonds, Walnuts?)
  • “Went bonkers” (What is a bonker? Perhaps a kind of nut?)

“Go nuts”: “nuts” had meant “insane” for about a century. It probably has to do with the slang “nut” for “head” (from 1841), which became “off his nut” to designate insanity.

“Flew off the handle”: Refers to a tool such as an axe. If the axe head flew off then handle, it could be very dangerous.

“bonkers”: British slang for insane (from 1945). Etymology unknown.

“ape shit”: hard to tell, but it may have to do with “go ape” meaning “go crazy.” The OED, however, cites both versions from the same source, so it’s hard to tell if the “shit” came first or later.

I think the “shit” got added later. It seems to have been added to numerous insults as an intensifier: apeshit; batshit (batty being old-timey slang for eccentric or crazy); chickenshit.

This cite offers a little more of an opinion on “bonkers.”