• haywire •
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 Haywire has been replaced by string out on the farm these days, but at one time wire was used for that purpose.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 Albert Skiles go haywire, we must not forget to thank him for suggesting this very intriguing Good Word.)
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