Have you seen the common phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ somewhere in a text (or on the internet), and want to know more about the saying and its origins? ‘Mad as a hatter’ is a figurative expression with an interesting origin. This post unpacks the meaning, origin, and correct use of the saying.
‘Mad as a hatter’ is a common figurative expression in the English language.
When someone is described to be ‘mad as a hatter’, the phrase implies that someone is mad, insane, quirky, or irrational.
The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ is most often used as a subtle or direct insult at someone or their decisionmaking.
Sometimes the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ can be used as a joking, less insulting reference too.
The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ can also be used as a joking form of self reference when someone is speaking about themselves.
‘Mad as a hatter’ can be said as a response or as a statement, and could make sense in context when it is said on its own when observing or discussing an event which is considered insane or crazy by the speakers.
The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ can also be used in the denial form to say that someone is ‘not mad as a hatter’ or with the implication that they are sane.
The expression draws a parallel to the character ‘the mad hatter’ from Alice in Wonderland.
“The guy just ordered everyone’s pizza with pineapple on it. I’m telling you, don’t marry this guy, he’s definitely mad as a hatter.”
“My mother was mad as a hatter. That’s why she named me Jacob, and I’m a thirty-seven year old woman who has to live with this secret for the rest of my life.”
“You’re mad as a hatter if you think that your bitcoin is ever going to be worth real money someday. Why don’t you just invest in our fertilizer company instead?”
“Don’t be mad as a hatter! Everyone can’t have their remains shot out of a cannon, no matter which movie star is going to pay for it.”
According to popular language resources (including etymonline.com), the expression ‘mad as a hatter’ originated with the profession of making hats – which happened to use mercury as part of the creation process, of which exposure caused symptoms like delirium and insanity.
Hatters, which are hatmakers, were driven insane by their jobs: therefore, it became popular to say in the 1700s and 1800s that someone was to be ‘mad as a hatter’ if they lost their minds.
The phrase would continue in use from its early origin through to modern use, with its popularity helped by the character of ‘the mad hatter’ in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Subsequent popularity of the series kept the idea of being ‘mad as a hatter’ in popular speech.
The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ was recorded by the website Urban Dictionary in 2016.
Phrases Similar to Mad As A Hatter
- Nuttier than a fruitcake
Phrases Opposite to Mad As A Hatter
What is the Correct Saying?
- [Someone is/they are] mad as a hatter
Ways People May Say Mad As A Hatter Incorrectly
There are several ways in which someone can misuse (or misunderstand) the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ in conversation.
When someone is ‘mad as a hatter’, the phrase means that they are behaving irrationaly or insanely.
The phrase can be misspelled as ‘mad as a hater’ which would not render a valid saying, or it can be misunderstood in another language if it is translated directly and there is no context.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase Mad As A Hatter
There are several ways in which someone can use the saying ‘mad as a hatter’ right in conversation.
When someone is ‘mad as a hatter’ the phrase is used to imply that someone is insane, demented, or that they are deluded about something.
Sometimes the phrase can also be used as a self reference.
In the negative form, the phrase can be used to say that someone is ‘not mad as a hatter’.