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What does funny farm mean in the following lyrics?

They're coming to take me away ha ha
They're coming to take me away ho ho hee hee ha ha
To the funny farm
Where life is beautiful all the time

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+1 for quoting Napoleon XIV –  HorusKol Feb 28 '11 at 22:45
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The words are, of course, from Marat/Sade. Presumably translated from the French which was translated from the German, yet the song still maintains a magical quality. –  Hot Licks Jan 30 at 17:40
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@HotLicks, that was such a profound observation that I could not help laughing my head off. Thanks. :-) See my link to the song on YouTube in my answer. –  Cyberherbalist Jan 30 at 18:56

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A funny farm is a slang term for a facility for psychiatric patients, a place where they take care of crazy people. They might get drugs there that make them feel happy; that may be why "life is beautiful all the time" there.

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aka the loony bin and a host of other, um, what do you call a euphemism that's actually worse than what it replaces? terms. –  Marthaª Feb 28 '11 at 22:41
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@Marthaª: Dysphemism –  Chris H Oct 9 '13 at 12:18
    
Or cacophemism. But I like dysphemism better. –  Cerberus Oct 9 '13 at 18:45

Farm colonies as part of a hospital system in the United States date back to 1885 and were intended for the chronic, harmless insane - no doubt this is how the term "funny farm" became associated with mental institutions

~ From Byberry State Hospital by Hannah Karena Jones, page 11, which shows people working on such a farm

Aka "banana farm", which is defined as:

An asylum for the insane: among Britons in tropical or semi-tropical countries: later C.20. (William Marshall, Hatchet Man, 1976: set in Hong Kong.) Cf. synon. funny farm.

~ From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge, page 46

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Of course it is a place where folks who are seriously not right in the head might find themselves, either for treatment, warehousing, or incarceration, depending upon the nature of their problem.

That being said, I definitely remember Napoleon XIV's song (a one-hit wonder). I was about 12 when it came out, and I had a copy on 45rpm record. I liked playing this song occasionally, and one day I played it about three or four times running until my father came into the living room (where the stereo was), and took the player arm off the record, gave me his special "Don't you dare play this again in my hearing" glare, and walked back to wherever he had been beforehand. Precious!

Here's the song: They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha!

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I didn't hear it until I was in college, but I can appreciate the scenario -- it's an intoxicating song. –  Hot Licks Jan 30 at 19:01
    
Ah, Those were the days with my transistor radio and Dr. Demento. –  Jim Jan 30 at 21:02

That is commonly known these days as a psychiatric ward; more commonly known in the past as an insane asylum or just asylum, or mental ward or mental hospital.

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