16

There are various expressions in English and other languages that use all, for example all right, or all dressed up and ready to go, however all the is not that common.

The use of rage is even stranger, which of its many meanings is used here?

Noun:


  1. a. Violent, explosive anger. See Synonyms at anger.
    b. A fit of anger.
  2. Furious intensity, as of a storm or disease.
  3. A burning desire; a passion.
  4. A current, eagerly adopted fashion; a fad or craze: when torn jeans were all the rage.

Verb:

  1. To speak or act in violent anger: raged at the mindless bureaucracy.
  2. To move with great violence or intensity: A storm raged through the mountains.
  3. To spread or prevail forcefully: The plague raged for months.

Perhaps that of burning desire or furious intensity? The word's origin is from the Latin rabies which means madness. Is that the meaning it had when the idiom entered the language?

So, my questions are:

  • When did the idiom come into English?
  • Which meaning of the word rage is used here?
  • Why all the rage?
  • 1
    How 'bout Noun (4) which even gives the example "all the rage" – Jim Sep 19 '13 at 3:36
  • 1
    @Jim yes, well, that's kind of circular isn't it? I was hoping for an explanation that did not include the phrase itself :). – terdon Sep 19 '13 at 3:50
  • 1
    Not sure about that logic. Typically, dictionaries give the definition (in this case: A current, eagerly adopted fashion; a fad or craze) and then will often give a usage of the word in context (in this case: when torn jeans were all the rage). So it's not used in the definition, it's a corresponding example. – Jim Sep 19 '13 at 4:19
  • @Jim my question is why does the term rage mean that and where does it come from. I am reasonably sure that definition 4 stems from the expression rather than the other way around. I would be very interested if you could prove me wrong though. :) – terdon Sep 19 '13 at 4:24
  • in that case I have always thought that it was most closely associated with Verb (3) and Noun (2) to spread or prevail with furious intensity (as of a storm), in that it these things are fads that spread rapidly through an area and that at the height of a fad's popularity that is the only thing the people in the in crowd can talk/(make noise) about, thus it is all the rage – Jim Sep 19 '13 at 4:40
18

The word rage comes through French from Latin rabies, "frenzy, rage, madness". The English word apparently went from rage "vehement passion" to the fixed phrase the rage meaning "the latest fad"; then the expression x is the rage was intensified by adding all, similar to the way you can add all to other things, like x is all messed up.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the oldest sense of the English word rage as used in the 13th century was "madness; insanity; a fit or access of mania. Obs. exc. poet." (sense 1a).

The sense of "a vehement passion for, desire of, a thing" (sense 7a) was already used by Shakespeare, in it oldest quotation:

1593 Shakes. Lucr. 468 This moves in him more rage...To make the breach.

1671 Milton Samson 836 Call it furious rage To satisfie thy lust. ns iii. 65 The rage which possesses authors to read their writings aloud.

The oldest quotation for the expression (all) the rage (sense 7b), "said of the object of a widespread and usually temporary enthusiasm", is from 1785:

1785 Europ. Mag. VIII. 473 The favourite phrases...The Rage, the Thing, the Twaddle, and the Bore.

1802 Monthly Mag. 1 Oct. 253/1 The rage for the dotting style of engraving...is on the decline.

I'm not entirely sure whether the quotation from 1785 already has x is the rage as a fixed expression; the earliest quotation for that is from 1834:

1834 Lytton Last Days of Pompeii I. i. 173 Sylla is said to have transported to Italy the worship of the Egyptian Isis. It soon became ‘the rage’—and was peculiarly in vogue with the Roman ladies.

At the same time, adding an adverb to intensify the predicate the rage was already in use:

1837 Marryat Perc. Keene ii, In a short time my mother became quite the rage.

And the oldest quotation with all is from 1870, although that may not mean much for its earliest use:

1870 Ld. Malmesbury in Athenæum 4 June 734 In 1776, the game of ‘Commerce’...was ‘all the rage’.

In 1940, the term was apparently thought of as typical of the period after 'the war', which is presumably the First World War:

1940 Graves & Hodge Long Week-End iii. 38 After the war the new fantastic development of Jazz music and the steps that went with it, became, in the comtemporary phrase, ‘all the rage’.

  • I am so going to start describing things as being ‘quite the twaddle’! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 19 '13 at 19:33
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    +1 / I'm surprised how old it is, it feels like quite a recent phrase. / The OED online has shuffled and antedated their definitions a little bit. I've also found some antedatings, my favourite a 1775 "Such is the rage for Regattas". – Hugo Sep 19 '13 at 20:05
  • +1 to this answer. They just used the term "all the rage" in Game of Thrones season 4 episode 4 (about 18-19 minutes in). The old lady says it and I thought that this doesn't make sense. This is a medieval high fantasy using a quote form the late 1700's. – But I'm Not A Wrapper Class Apr 29 '14 at 0:07
  • @ButI'mNotAWrapperClass: I've heard that Martin's books are just generally not on a high literary level, so it's probably not too surprising... – Cerberus Jul 7 '18 at 5:10
6

Cerberus describes the evolution of the phrase well, and I'm surprised it's so old - it still feels quite new. Here's some antedatings.

OED's own antedatings

The rage

First, the OED online has shuffled their senses around a bit (the Shakespeare 1593 quote has been amended to 1594; the 1785 has been dropped; the 1802 has moved to the "vehement passion" sense and strangely), and found some antedatings of their own:

As complement: a widespread, temporary fashion or enthusiasm; esp. in to be (also become) (all) the rage .

1780 E. Griffith Times iii. 31 Eating is the rage, the high ton at present, and indeed is one of the most refined of our modern studies.

All the rage

And they found an earlier "all the rage":

1832 E. C. Wines Two Years & Half in Navy 7 The Navy is all the rage at Norfolk. Its officers are in great demand.

My antedatings

The rage (OED: 1780)

I found an earlier example of "the rage" for a temporary fashion. The earliest in The Critical Review. For the Month of June, 1762:

Such is the rage of fashion that men of real genius have been seduced into this senseless mode of writing, only to remain contemptible examples of misapplied talents.

Such is the rage of fashion that men of real genius have been seduced into this senseless mode of writing, only to remain contemptible examples of mifapplied talents.

This one is good, so I'll include it as well. The Town and Country Magazine, Or Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment for August, 1775 (Volume 7) printed a letter concluding "Such is the rage for Regattas" that deserves printing in full:

T the OBSERVER SIR rpHE spirit of exhibiting Regattas is A now se prevalent all over the kingdom that we may reasonably expect the
price of boats will greatly encrease There is scarce a pool ora fish pond in my neighbourhood but what has afforded one of these entertainments Mr Blubber who by the bye is a man of great taste is now digging a rrvir in his garden which will be at least thirty feet long in order to give his friends a regale of this kind before the summer is quite over and Mr Maggot the cheesemonger not to be behind hand with his neighbour is extending his horse pond some feet to get the start ot him Such is the rage for Regattas ABC

All the rage (OED: 1832)

I've also found some earlier "all the rage" examples, the earliest in a letter by "W----- S-----" to The Sentimental and Masonic Magazine, Volume 1 (September 1792, page 202):

Lay up, lay up by all means--place it in the bank--you do not want it yourselves, and do any thing with it--bury it rather than give it to those that have occasion for it.--This is all the rage; yet, while we think, talk, and act in this manner, we profess to believe the Bible!--We call ourselves Christians--and at the fame time we intentionally, uniformly, and with all the powers of body, and mind, act in direct opposition to one of the plainest commands of him after whose name we are called!

Indeed where is the man that does not break it Rather what man ever thinks about it at all It might just as well be out of the Bible for no man thinks himself in the least concerned in it As I believe the Scriptures I therefore go regularly to church where I have heard almost every other divine precept explained and enforced but this I never remember to hear a word about in my life Preachers all agree to forget it and both preaciiers and people unanimously agree to break this command as much and as often as they possibly can Lay up lay up by all means place it in the bank you do not want it yourselves and do any thing with it bury it rather than give it to those that have occasion for it This is all the rage yet while we think talk and act in this manner we profess to believe the Bible We call ourselves Christians and at the fame time we intentionally uniformly and with all the powers of body and mind act in direct opposition to one of the plainest commands of him after whose name we are called We lay up money in heaps and when we can keep it no longer ourselves we generally leave it but to whom to those who want it to those whom it would relieve from indigence and distress No but to those who from their present state of independency are most likely to preserve the precious hoard undisturbed While we live we are content to suffer our brethren of mankind sometimes our nearest relations to pine away in want and misery rather than bestow on them what to ourselves is as useless as the stones in the streets and when we can stay no longer here we cautiously prevent them from enjoying it after we are gone What a passport must this be to the other world What a recommendation to that Heaven whose laws we have paid such attention to

  • I've sent my antedatings to the OED. – Hugo Sep 19 '13 at 20:21
2

When people discover a traditional but unusually formed expression they sometimes try to rationalize it by reforming it into what amounts to an eggcorn. "All the rage" is definitely traditional, not "all the rave." The latter is probably influenced by expressions like "raving about," meaning "enthusiastically praising." "He couldn't stop raving about his new convertible."

The existence of dance "raves" probably encourages the use of the word "rave" as a noun.

The OED really says all you need to know, but here's what another source (Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms) says:

all the rage Also, all the thing. The current or latest fashion, with the implication that it will be short-lived, as in In the 1940s the lindy-hop was all the rage. The use of rage reflects the transfer of an angry passion to an enthusiastic one; thing is vaguer. [Late 1700s] These terms are heard less often today than the synonym THE THING."

Since this was written "the thing" has morphed into "a thing."

See also the entries for "all the rage" at Cambridge Dictionaries Online and Collins English Thesaurus.

-4

It's an incorrectly heard form of "all the rave", which is used to describe a topic that is "raved" about by the masses.

A loose example: "Stark raving mad" or "raving mad" is commonly used to describe an individual who is yelling nonsensically.

All the rage is nonsensical as "All intensive purposes" vs. "All intents and purposes", or "Eggcorn" vs "Acorn". Someone misheard it and it was perpetuated colloquially, that's all there is to it.

See the definition of Rave for more information.

EDIT: Holy Jesus, no disrespect, but how did you all get so far into this that you delved into the bible to make sense of this? Occam's razor, fellas.

  • 4
    Your theory is, at present, an unsupported speculation; at odds with several other answers which have supporting documentation. Occam's razor is a heuristic for choosing between theories when none of them is any more supported than any other. – Colin Fine Apr 20 '16 at 20:19

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