Today’s word is “kooky”. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the term “kooky” first appeared in 1959 and was teenager or beatnik slang. The Beatnik movement began in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Characterized by their non-conformist beliefs (beatniks were usually young, college-aged individuals) and preference for modern forms of jazz. Poetry readings and coffee houses were popular within the Beatnik culture.They were commonly known for wearing black clothing, berets and dark sunglasses.
It is believed that “kooky” came from the word “cuckoo”. Cuckoos are birds found around the world and known for their cry which is where they got their name. “Cuckoo” was first used in the early part of the 20th century to describe the mentally ill. Although it can be traced as far back as 1580 to describe a “stupid person”. (Online Etymology Dictionary)
I have been known to utter the phrase “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”. Cocoa Puffs is a General Mills chocolatey cereal whose mascot, Sonny the Cuckoo Bird can be heard screaming the slogan “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”. Over the years it has become part of the vernacular used to describe mental illness. What’s interesting is I don’t even think Cocoa Puffs are available in Canada anymore.
So there you have it, yet another term used to describe the mentally ill that finds its roots in the world of fowl. I wonder how many other bird terms there are. Stay turned, I’ll let you know.