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What is the connection between "nut" and the character? How was the phrase "are you nuts?" used at first?

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You will never be thinking out of your own box(shell) if you are a nut! –  Jamie May 5 '11 at 17:57

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Etymonline has this to offer:

"crazy," 1846, from earlier be nutts upon "be very fond of" (1785), which is possibly from nuts (n., pl.) "any source of pleasure" (1610s), from nut (q.v.). Sense influenced probably by metaphoric application of nut to "head" (1846, e.g. to be off one's nut "be insane," 1860).

So, in a similar since of being out of one's mind or being out of your head, nuts seems to have evolved past into its own idiom. This is further suggested by the common phrase, "out of one's gourd" which has the same meaning.

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Thanks for you Answer. You mean, the nuts refers to the man without brain? like the nut out of the fruit( refers to the mind of the man ). Am I right, or nut ? –  A.C.Balaji May 5 '11 at 14:51
So where did the link between nut and head come from ? –  mgb May 5 '11 at 14:57

Etymology Online contends that nuts was influenced by the metaphoric application of nut to refer to one's head. To be off one's nut dates from 1861 as an expression for "to be insane". Similarly, one could say "to be out of mind" or "to be out of one's head". In British English, a crazy person is a nutter (possibly antiquated).

Also of note: nuts to mean "crazy" predates the usage of the same to mean testicles (1846 and 1915, respectively).

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Haha, I guess this is what your chat was referring to. Same time; same reference. :P –  MrHen May 5 '11 at 18:26
FWIW, I don't think "nutter" is particularly dated here in SE UK. You don't often hear variants like "You're nuts!" or "He went completely nutty!" any more, but "He's a right nutter!" is still current. It doesn't so much mean "crazy/insane" as "prone to unpredictable and extreme violence". Perhaps it survives because a "nutter" is the type of person who might unexpectedly "nut you" (give you a Glasgow kiss). –  FumbleFingers Jun 15 '13 at 21:44

Alice Nutter was one of the 'witches' tried at the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 in Pendle, Lancashire, England.

The word 'nutter' could be from this as she was seen to be 'crazy', therefore "are you nuts?"/"nut-case"/"off one's nut" could have evolved from this.

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Can you source this? –  virmaior Feb 7 at 4:56

Just a hypothesis. The basis might be Latin de-mens/dementis meaning off one's mind. In the course of time demens might have been shortened via dements to ments and mets, and the unfamiliar form mets may have been transformed into some familiar word: nuts. Obviously the meaning crazy and nuts from a walnut tree have no logical relationship. But when unfamiliar wordforms are transformed into something familiar this happens without consideration of logic.

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