The word mad is used in several different ways in American society. Three ways the word is commonly used are in reference to a person’s excitement, anger, or mental instability.
Narrative texts often focus on the emotional development of the characters within a story. Students may encounter characters that are experiencing being mad in different ways. For example, the Mad Hatter in the classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is portrayed as being mentally unstable. This is different than a young girl who is mad about butterflies. This does not mean she is mentally unstable because of butterflies or that she is angry at butterflies. Rather, it means that she is excited about butterflies and wants to know everything about them.
The word mad comes from the Old English word gemǣded, the past participle of gemǣdan, meaning to render insane. The word mad is also related to the Old High German word gimeit, meaning silly or crazy and the Old Norse word meitha, meaning to hurt or damage. Mad does not have a Spanish cognate, but many of its synonyms do.
Interestingly, the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is inspired by the idiom “mad as a hatter.” In the 18th and 19th century, Englishmen used a poisonous metal called mercury in the process of making hats. Hat makers would slowly lose their memory and appear to become crazy as the toxins built up in their bodies.