IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD “WORD”
As Charlton Heston, playing Taylor, in the original “Planet of the Apes,” so memorably put it, “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!” Have you ever wanted to scream it, too? I know I have. When life is humming along fine, we take it all for granted. But when forces seem to conspire against us, well, sometimes it pushes us to the wall.
This essay is an aimless little ditty on the word “mad.” I love this word. Like George Carlin, I love words, but I really love this one. What does mad mean? First off, it means to be angry. Then again, it also means to be insane. As a Cold Warrior, that is a soldier who served during the tensions of the Cold War, I think of the acronym M.A.D. It is a wonderful little philosophy designed to keep us from starting World War III: “Mutual Assured Destruction.” So if the Soviets were to launch an ICBM barrage, we would retaliate, and so on and so forth… resulting in a world of cinders. I like the acronym because it easily fits both definitions of the word “mad.” First off, everyone would have to be very angry to launch their nuclear arsenal and, secondly, of course, it would also be insane.
And then there is the organization Mothers Against Drink Drivers. Okay, that’s M.A.D.D. with an extra “D,” but it also fits. When this group started it was not seen as such a big deal to drive intoxicated. However, the alarming and tragic statistics screamed otherwise. There was plenty of anger behind the impetus of M.A.D.D. And, as for the other definition, “insane,” the culture that celebrated this sort of behavior as some adolescent rite of passage turned out to be kinda kooky… Society evolves and adapts as needed. Over the years the stigma of a DUI is now something to be avoided. No longer a phase or silly transgression, it is seen as a reckless and selfish act, a reflection of poor decision making and lack of self-control. Try explaining a DUI to a prospective employer nowadays. My point is that M.A.D.D. (at the very crossroads of anger—from loss of loved ones, and insanity—as in lack of self control) changed our society for the better.
I also like the way “mad” rhymes with other strong emotions such as sad and glad. Don’t forget about bad, too. In fact, sometimes I feel bad that I get so mad at something that should make me glad and not sad. Okay, Dr. Seuss it ain’t, but I hope you get my point!
Words can be so interesting in the way they look on paper and the way they sound aloud. English is a tough language. We know mad, sad, and bad all rhyme. They look alike and they sound the alike. But not bush, push, and rush… What’s up with that? Why does mush rhyme with rush, but not bush or push?
Also, in a brief non sequitur, how is it possible for a bird to alight on a light?
And this where I came in. “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!”
I love words.
I’m just saying…