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Berserk

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Berserk

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Sep 02, 2013 9:32 pm

• berserk •


Pronunciation: bêr-zêrkHear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Frenzied, wild, out of control, acting in a crazy, reckless manner.

Notes: As the Word History below suggests, berserk is about serious lapses in acceptable behavior. Reserve it for noteworthy temper tantrums and don't apply it to peevish behavior. Someone who goes berserk may be called a berserker, though some prefer to use the adjective itself as a noun: a berserk.

In Play: This is a fairly common household word already: "A good way to send Naomi berserk is to offer parenting advice when her two brats are screaming." However, sports seem to bring on this state more than other human activities, "I would tell Dad what caused his golf clubs to slide into the pond, but he might go berserk and hit me with the one that is left."

Word History: This word comes from the name of an Old Norse warrior, a berserkr, a compound made up of some ancestor of bjørn "bear" (possibly bera, though we are not certain) + serkr "shirt." The berserkrs wore bearskin hides and went into battle screaming, foaming at the mouth, and gnawing at their shields (not unlike Mel Gibson in Braveheart). This word is Old Norse, suggesting that it might have entered English with the Viking invasions beginning in the late 700s. However, it doesn't appear in print until the early 19th century, introduced in a story by Sir Walter Scott. (Lest Rob Towart go berserk at the snub, we now thank him for the suggestion of today's Good Word.)
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Re: Berserk

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Sep 02, 2013 11:36 pm

Berserk is a great word. Though not onomotopeic, it does give one great satisfaction applying it to an intentionally chaotic explosion of human energy.
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Re: Berserk

Postby MTC » Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:31 am

It is possible "berserk" and "amok" represent the same mental state across cultures. A rose by any other name...

Early travelers in Asia sometimes describe a kind of military amok, in which soldiers facing apparently inevitable defeat suddenly burst into a frenzy of violence which so startled their enemies that it either delivered victory or at least ensured what the soldier in that culture considered an honourable death. This form of amok appears to resemble the berserker of the Norse, the cafard or cathard (Polynesia), mal de pelea (Puerto Rico), iich'aa (Navaho), Laos, and Papua New Guinea.[16]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_amok)

What is aberrant behavior in one culture may be normal in another, a fact which makes mental illness in part a cultural construct. Berserkers were accepted in Norse culture until they were later outlawed, according to what I have read.
Last edited by MTC on Thu Sep 05, 2013 12:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Berserk

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:38 pm

Indeed riots seem more acceptable in British and European soccer, than in America, though there have even been deaths on both sides of the water.
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Re: Berserk

Postby gailr » Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:07 pm

I'm afraid I tend to use berserk frivolously. I've been coveting an expensive fabric and this past weekend decided to add a yard to my stash; upon finding out that it was on sale I told the clerk I would go berserk and get two yards.

She understood completely. :D
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Re: Berserk

Postby MTC » Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:26 pm

For gailr's benefit: http://search.yahoo.com/tablet/s?p=riot ... le&fr=ipad

A sale brings out those atavistic traits!
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Re: Berserk

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:13 pm

Berserk aptly describes the attitude of people rushing to an early sale. Black Friday, The day after Thanksgiving, is so called because the sales that day are supposed to put retailers "in the black" for the first time in the year. It is marked by earlier and earlier openings, even at 12:01am. Whatever the time of opening, mobs rush in and injuries frequently ensue. Wild horses couldn't drag me to such an event.
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Re: Berserk

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:37 pm

MTC, you are guilty of trying to incite Gail to riot? Or to go berserk and run amok.
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Re: Berserk

Postby MTC » Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:18 am

You're right Perry. Perhaps I have been guilty of inciting Gail to riot, though I will say thus far she has evidenced no riotous tendencies online. Anyway, the penalty is pretty stiff. Here's a sample from the California Penal Code:

404.6.
(a) Every person who with the intent to cause a riot does an act or engages in conduct that urges a riot, or urges others to commit acts of force or violence, or the burning or destroying of property, and at a time and place and under circumstances that produce a clear and present and immediate danger of acts of force or violence or the burning or destroying of property, is guilty of incitement to riot.
(b) Incitement to riot is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

This is starting to look bad. Just don't riot, OK, Gail?
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Re: Berserk

Postby gailr » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:17 pm

MTC wrote:It is possible "berserk" and "amok" represent the same metal state across cultures. A rose by any other name...

I intended to smile at your typo and move on, but after your link I'm wondering if Riot gear clothing is sufficient protection against berserk Metal State slam dancing in the mosh pits? There don't appear to be any sturdy places on those t-shirts to secure pointy dog collar studs.
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Re: Berserk

Postby MTC » Thu Sep 05, 2013 1:02 am

Oops! Well, at least my typo brought a smile. Call it a "metal lapse."

P.S. Personally, I have always preferred body surfing to moshing in the mosh pits. Less chance of smashing my pumpkins!
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Re: Berserk

Postby misterdoe » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:56 pm

Philip Hudson wrote:Berserk aptly describes the attitude of people rushing to an early sale. Black Friday, The day after Thanksgiving, is so called because the sales that day are supposed to put retailers "in the black" for the first time in the year. It is marked by earlier and earlier openings, even at 12:01am. Whatever the time of opening, mobs rush in and injuries frequently ensue. Wild horses couldn't drag me to such an event.

Twenty years ago I had the misfortune of working in a retail store on Black Friday. When my workday was over at 3:30pm the department I'd been working in looked like there had been a riot. When I quit that job the following Monday I decided never again to enter a department store on Black Friday. I've since amended it to not entering until after nightfall, when the mobs have (been) cleared out.
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