I'm looking for something that adequately encapsulates the phenomenon of people who may be renowned in their field or society for their calm expertise and usually reasonable comments, but expresses hysterical or irrational thoughts on one or two pervasive issues (e.g. something political).

A sample sentence might be "David has a reputation for writing thoughtful commentary on all manner of social issues, but has showed unusual signs of [mystery word] when writing about molehills lately".

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    'Uncharacteristic' comes to mind. – Andy Semyonov Feb 3 '18 at 14:09
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    An idiomatic expression that might work is "lost it". The 'it' is not specified but will be assumed to mean something like 'reason' or 'common sense'. It is quite informal but conveys hysterical more than uncharacteristic. – Ross Murray Feb 3 '18 at 14:09
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    'Take leave of his/her senses' would also work. You might consider rephrasing the sentence as follows: 'David has a reputation for writing thoughtful commentary on all manner of social issues, but seems to have taken leave of his senses when writing about molehills lately.' – Andy Semyonov Feb 3 '18 at 14:32
  • It would probably only work in your specific example (if at all), but maybe you could consider playing off the “making mountains out of molehills” idiom with: “… but has showed unusual signs of orogeny/mountain-making when writing about molehills lately." – Papa Poule Feb 3 '18 at 16:56
  • Isn't this the definition of "political"? – Hot Licks Feb 3 '18 at 20:13

The first English (sporting) idiom that sprang to my mind is dropping the ball, suggesting that they're being clumsy. It's possibly not quite what you wanted, so a few others:

  • Less colloquially than dropping the ball is just losing their way.
  • Simply signs of craziness, madness or obsession
  • ... signs of joining the lunatic fringe
  • ... signs of senility
| improve this answer | |
  • @andy-semyonov may I incorporate your comment as additional material, with attribution? – Will Crawford Feb 3 '18 at 18:26
  • Someone seems to be on a down-voting spree. – Will Crawford Feb 3 '18 at 19:09

The British have always had myriad words. My favorite:

'but seems to have become somewhat a howler when writing about molehills lately.'

absurdness, craziness, foolishness, inaneness, madness, senselessness, witlessness, buffoonery, monkeyshine(s), shenanigan(s), tomfoolery drivel, humbug, nonsense, twaddle blunder, bungle, flub, goof, howler


dotty, fey, loopy, off, potty [chiefly British], teched (or tetched), touched aberrant, delirious, delusional, delusionary, disordered, disturbed, neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, paranoiac (also paranoic), paranoid (also paranoidal), schizoid, schizophrenic, sociopathic, eccentric, odd, oddball, pixilated (also pixillated), queer, strange, foolish, senseless, witless, irrational, unreasonable, amok (or amuck), ape, ballistic, bananas, berserk, nuclear, distracted, distraught, frantic, frenzied, haywire, hysterical (also hysteric), raving, wigged-out , fixated, monomaniac, monomaniacal, obsessed Phrases around the bend, off one's gourd, off one's head, off one's rocker, out of one's head (or mind), out to lunch [slang]

all from https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/senseless idiot and insane lol

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  • A howler refers to the original sense of lunatic, i.e. barking at the moon. :o) – Will Crawford Feb 3 '18 at 18:18
  • That's why i like it. My English grandfather used it frequently when his progeny on occasion did not make sense: 'You are howling at the moon'. – lbf Feb 3 '18 at 18:23
  • I'm British and I've never heard 'howler' used like that. The only meaning I know for 'a howler' (apart from a howler monkey) is a childish, gross and obvious error, usually in an education context. – BoldBen Feb 3 '18 at 20:57
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    Translators talk about howlers, too. Howler is a funny mistake. It makes you howl with laughter. And it ain't gonna cut it here. I see no reason to list a bunch of words without rhyme or reason. – Lambie Feb 3 '18 at 21:15
  • +1, it's not a great answer. And I did a double take on howler too. – Will Crawford Feb 3 '18 at 22:11

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