Funnily enough, food is often used metaphorically to describe someone's eccentricity or level of sanity.

We have nuts

  1. Slang. a foolish, silly, or eccentric person. an insane person; psychotic. adj. "crazy," 1846, e.g. to be off one's nut, "be insane," (1860), from earlier be nutts upon "be very fond of" (1785) Meaning "crazy person, crank" is attested from 1903, (British form nutter first attested 1958; nut-case is from 1959)


adjective 1. (postpositive) ( Brit) a slang word for insane. Also, he was plain crackers [1928+; formed with the British suffix -ers, like bonkers, preggers, etc]


adjective Eccentric; odd; nutty, weird (1930s+ Teenagers)


Slang. a crazy or eccentric person; meaning "lunatic person" is first attested 1952.


adj. "crazy," 1968; esp in the phrase go bananas, earlier (1935) it was noted as an underworld slang term for "sexually perverted." Crazy; nuts: I could see that my calm was driving him bananas (1970s+) [from the idiomatic expression] to drive somebody bananas

and cupcake

noun An eccentric person; nutball: regarding puppeteers as kind of weird cupcakes who play with dolls / the publishing cupcake who nailed you on the couch and then fired you (1970s+)

And yet I couldn't come up with any beverages, meat, or vegetables to add to that list. Why are baked "bread" products and fruits more commonly associated with eccentricity or madness? Are there any other foods I can add to this list? Are there any forgotten or archaic food words that describe a person's sanity?

P.S. Please add references/backup/sources with your answers. Thanks!

Source: All definitions taken from Dictionary.com

EDIT: Related to origins of nuts meaning madness is a question entitled
How did the phrase “Are you nuts” come about?

  • 2
    'One sandwich short of a picnic', but thats bread again! 'It's all gone pear shape' more fruit!
    – 7caifyi
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 23:31
  • 2
    Related question.
    – Lynn
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 23:35
  • 1
    There's "dill," which in Australia and New Zealand can mean a fool or an idiot (see thefreedictionary.com/dillweed). Your question is a dilly! Don Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 1:34
  • 1
    How about a "noodle?" Same dictionary as above defines a noodle as, "a weak, foolish, or stupid person." Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 1:48
  • 2
    With nuts, I think there's an association with being cracked, not whole, something not all together.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 11:31

1 Answer 1


The reason why many fruit-related terms are associated with craziness is that most of these slang terms were previously related to homosexuality. In the early 20th century homosexuality was considered a mental illness, as a result this led to a shift in meaning that continued until the 1960s.

By the 1930s both fruit and fruitcake terms are seen as not only negative but also to mean male homosexual, although probably not universally. It should be noted that LGBT people were widely diagnosed as diseased with the potential for being cured, thus were regularly "treated" with castration, lobotomies, pudic nerve surgery, and electroshock treatment so transferring the meaning of fruitcake, nutty, to someone who is deemed insane, or crazy, may have seemed rational at the time and many apparently believed that LGBT people were mentally unsound. In the United States, psychiatric institutions ("mental hospitals") where many of these procedures were carried out were called fruitcake factories while in 1960s Australia they were called fruit factories.


Homosexuality was associated with fruits because of the effeminacy of homosexuals, thus softness. Fruits are soft also and there you go. You can refer to Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (By Jonathon Green) for the origins of fruit-themed slang terms with connotations of homosexuality:

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As you can see below, fruitcake had the meaning of eccentric person first but gained the meaning of crazy in US slang after gaining the connotation of homosexual man. It must be the craziest food because it contains both fruits and nuts. Hence, you can define the craziest person as "nutty as a fruitcake" and even "nuttier than a fruitcake".

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Banana also meant homosexual in the past:

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But the phrase go bananas is said to be originated from zoos. Monkeys in the zoo go wild when they see bananas coming. Below is excerpt from the book Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms (By Robert Allen Palmatier):

enter image description here

Cupcake is not necessarily related to fruits but it connoted homosexuality also in the 1970s:

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Though, in the case of "nuts", people were actually crazy for the food and the food became crazy. People were nuts about nuts.

In the late 19th century, the British used "nuts" as slang for something they found enjoyable: (This usage may have originated in an old cliché—"sweet as a nut.") Being nuts on something meant you really liked it, but so did being "crazy on something." It's possible that "nuts" became a synonym for "crazy" because of this similarity.


Crackers is a bit different and trickier though. It seems it is derived from cracked and it shares the same meaning with other similar terms: crackerbarrel, cracko, cracky:

cracked adj. 1. [17C+] insane, crazy, eccentric; thus cracked about/on, obsessed with, infatuated with (cf. CRACKED IN THE FILBERT phr.; CRACKERBARREL adj.; crackers adj.; cracko adj.; cracky adj.).

It might be associated with mental breakdown and thus, falling to pieces. It seems it shares the same or similar roots with craze:

From Middle English crasen (“to crush, break, break to pieces, shatter, craze”), from Old Norse *krasa (“to shatter”). Cognate with Danish krase (“to crack, crackle”), Swedish krasa (“to crack, crackle”), Norwegian krasa (“to shatter, crush”), Icelandic krasa (“to crackle”).


Etymonline says that it is still used in its original sense in crazy quilt:

Original sense preserved in crazy quilt pattern and in reference to cracking in pottery glazing (1815). Mental sense (by 1620s) perhaps comes via transferred sense of "be diseased or deformed" (mid-15c.), or it might be an image.

It is used in the phrase drive someone crackers also. Below is excerpt from the book Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms (By Robert Allen Palmatier):

enter image description here

  • Though, in the case of "nuts", people were actually crazy for the food. People were nuts about nuts. What makes nuts so crazy?
    – ermanen
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 6:35
  • 2
    A useful source for this topic: Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms
    – ermanen
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 6:37
  • Fruitcake "as a slur for a 'crazy person'" was "derived from the expression "nutty as a fruitcake", in 1935". A combination of nuts and fruit in the same expression!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 6:46
  • Wonderfully detailed and researched!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 16:57
  • Could you add a link for the relevant passage at Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, please? The book exists, but I can't seem to read any of its pages. Don't know why.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 6:23

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