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I came across the following phrase yesterday. It's a somewhat old phrase which we no longer use these days.

Context: The guy definitely has a leak in his attic. Make sure you go in there with a policeman.

I'd appreciate some insights into the meaning of the phrase.

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    It's similar in spirit to these sorts of expressions. – Gnawme Jun 28 '17 at 16:18
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    Never heard the phrase meaning anything other than its literal meaning. And, for me, that's not enough context to determine otherwise. Where did you "come across" the phrase? – Arm the good guys in America Jun 28 '17 at 16:21
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    Based on that limited context, I'd guess that since the 'attic' is the top room in a house it's actually saying 'he's not "right in the head"'. He's 'got a screw loose', and his behaviour is liable to be unpredictable to the extent that it could be dangerous, hence the suggestion of police accompaniment. – Steve Lovell Jun 28 '17 at 16:43
  • Note that "a leak in the basement" is something else entirely. – Hot Licks Jun 28 '17 at 22:28
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This is not a common phrase and I doubt ever was but as @Gnawme and @SteveLovell point out, given the context, it's clearly one of a class of euphemisms that suggest that someone is insane. "Toys in the attic" is a similar phrase that is more common.

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  • The phrase "Not right upstairs" is the closest I've heard in conversation. Collins dictionary also carries a definition for Leak in the Attic. – Steve Lovell Jun 28 '17 at 20:22
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    @Steve it's a suggested 'word', pending investigation. I wonder if Collins has entries for all the variants, which are actually much more common. – Arm the good guys in America Jun 28 '17 at 21:52
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    Another similar one is having bats in the/one’s belfry. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 5 '19 at 16:28
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They use this exact phrase in at least 2 eps of the Twilight Zone. In both instances they’re more or less to say “they’re not right in the head.” One ep is “A Most Unusual Camera.” I forget what the other one was.

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    Please don't add your opinion about the website to your answers. – Matt E. Эллен Jun 5 '19 at 12:35
  • The other episode, which I just now finished watching, is called "Four O'clock" The man's landlady warns a visitor that she'd better take a policeman with her because he "had a leak in his attic a mile wide." – Susan Evans Sep 30 '19 at 5:00

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