any ideas? It's for use in an English Language class I teach.

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    I don't suppose it's anywhere near the first citation, but here's one from 1836: "You are driving me mad, father!" I don't see how anyone can meaningfully answer "Where did this usage come from?" - it's just basic English, used as it has been for centuries. Sep 26, 2013 at 19:20
  • ...also Will you drive me mad, Julia! from 1790. Sep 26, 2013 at 19:25
  • What research have you done? Sep 27, 2013 at 8:28
  • Always include the question in the body, not just the title. Make sure the sentences are grammatically correct with proper punctuation, capitalization, etc. After all, this is English Q&A.
    – Kris
    Sep 28, 2013 at 14:26

3 Answers 3


Among it's meanings, drive has always also had the meaning of forcing, pushing (the cattle, for example, or even some abstract thing).

Regarding the contruction itself, in which the action results in the object becoming changed in some way, it's called adjectival resultative. It is typical of Germanic languages (as opposed to Romance languages) and English features it abundantly. She beat him black-and-blue. They robbed us poor. I shot him dead.


Well, it's driving in the sense of pushing toward and mad as a synonym for crazy or insane.

That's really all it is.

Your incessant tapping is driving me insane/crazy/nuts/mad!

  • Hmm, thanks. I think you're probably right but disappointed there isn't more to it. In this sense, it's a metaphor probably, since idioms tend to have a good story behind them.
    – track2now
    Sep 26, 2013 at 19:56
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    It's a metaphor in any sense. Most idioms come from metaphors. And there's no such thing as just a metaphor; metaphors are all there is. Sep 26, 2013 at 19:59
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    @user52882 like many idioms such as this, it's just hyperbole. That's really it. Sep 26, 2013 at 20:13

Drove her mad can be found at least as early as 1728 in Augusta Triumphans: Or, The Way to Make London the Most Flourishing City in the Universe by Daniel Defoe:

During her Confinement, the Villain of the Mad-Houfe frequently attempted her Chaftity ; and the more fhe repuls'd him, the worfe he treated her : till at laft he drove - her mad in good earneft. Her diftreffed Brother, who is fond of her to -the laft ...

And drives me mad from 1730 in Thomas Walker's play, The fate of villany: A play. As it is acted by the company of comedians, at the Theatre in Goodmans-Fields:

Recal him, fetch him back. Sebastians Attend the Summons of the fair Fittoria. Now judge the Force of Love, thou frozen Parents See me resign the Treasure of my Soul 5 A Task, which, but to think on, drives me mad, And hurls me to Despair.

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