a bit round the bend -- origin

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susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

I found a delightful phrase in Julian Barnes's novel Talking It Over: "a bit round the bend." It's used to mean "rather odd, crazy," and the dictionaries concur.

But where does it come from? I do get a sense that it may refer to a surprise that comes from your blind side, but am not sure.

Thank you!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Also 'round the twist'. Don't know – the OED's first quotation is from 1929 and calls it 'an old naval term'. While 'bend' has a couple of technical meanings relating to ships, I can't see why it should acquire this slang meaning.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    This is one of a few theories on how it originated:

    Several writers to mailing lists online had a different story about its origin, suggesting that mental institutions had long tree-lined driveways that curved at the end so that no one could actually see the buildings. “If you were sent to the loony bin,” one wrote, “you went around the bend in the driveway to get there.“
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I'm always sceptical of etymologies such as #3. I think that it's an extended metaphor from straight thinking, logical thinking in a straightforward manner. If you're mentally deranged your thoughts go off that track, they're drawn aside and you become distracted.

    Similar ideas are off-beam, side-tracked, lost in fantasy...
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    suggesting that mental institutions had long tree-lined driveways that curved at the end so that no one could actually see the buildings.
    Twaddle, I'm afraid - but I'm not shooting the messenger. I've been to several Victorian lunatic asylums (not as a client) and they have all manner of driveways - straight, curved, tree-lined, not tree-lined. There's one close to where I live, now converted to housing, and the tree-lined drive is as straight as an arrow. Indeed, the fine, mature trees fan out from the driveway so that you get a better view of the building as you approach it.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    ..... but I'm not shooting the messenger. I've been to several Victorian lunatic asylums ....... (not as a client)
    It's just as well, Andy, otherwise you may have been obliged to visit one as a client! :D The nautical slang suggestion in that link (also referred to by entangledbank in Post 2) seems a bit more convincing, but not much.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    There is more nautical speculation at Telegraph Island - Wikipedia
    In the 19th century, it [Telegraph Island] was the location of a British repeater station used to boost telegraphic messages along the Persian Gulf submarine cable, which was part of the London to Karachi telegraphic cable. It was not an easy posting for the operators, with the severe summer heat and hostility of local tribes making life extremely uncomfortable. Because of this, the island is, according to some travel agents and journalists, where the expression "go round the bend" comes from, a reference to the heat making British officers desperate to return to civilization, which meant a voyage around the bend in the Strait of Hormuz back to India.
    I recently read an article on Telegraph Island and, to be frank, the bend in the Straits of Hormuz, the heat, and the horrible conditions make this a possibility.

    Against it is that the station did not last very long as the cable was rerouted.
     
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