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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:59 am

• haywire •

Pronunciation: hay-wair • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. Wire formerly used for baling hay. 2. Functioning improperly from missing parts, barely holding itself together, on the verge of collapsing. 3. Berserk, crazy, wild, insane, when applied to people.

Notes: Things occasionally go haywire, but when it happens to people, they go crazy. Haywire has been replaced by string out on the farm these days, but at one time wire was used for that purpose. For the connection with the sense of "crazy", see Word History.

In Play: When Gladys Friday came to work today, the boss told her, "Now don't go haywire on me, but I didn't promote you because, well, you go haywire so often." Gladys responded that she has to run a haywire operation in her division due to recent cutbacks in operating expenses.

Word History: This Good Word goes back to the World War I, before we had duct tape to make temporary repairs with. Back then soldiers used haywire to hold things together that were falling apart. A haywire vehicle was one held together by haywire or repaired with haywire. Once the implication "about to fall to pieces" had settled in, it was used in this sense to refer to anything about to fall to pieces. This included people who had already fallen to pieces. A haywire outfit, haywire company, haywire icecream churn were all things on their last leg, running as if held together by haywire. (Lest Alb if we forgire, we must not forget to thank him for suggesting this very intriguing Good Word.)
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Postby mikespeir » Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:02 am

Interesting. I had always assumed we use it the way we do because of the way the wire recoils when cut after having tightly bound a bale of hay.

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:33 pm

I had not a clue there was a connection to
fixing things before the invention of duck tape.
I have a friend who lives on a farm and each
Christmas I give him some bailing wire and
duck tape, more as a joke than anything, and
we laugh a good deal.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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