Recently I read that bananas can help fight off depression. I think that’s ironic since “bananas” is also a term used in lieu of “crazy” (crazy = mental health; depression = mental health diagnosis; therefore depression can = bananas). Let’s take a look at the origins of the terms “bananas” or “go bananas” in reference to mental health.
From Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel (if you click on the link you can buy his book):
The first known usage of the term has been credited to a 1968 academic publication, which noted that Kentucky college students were saying it.
It seems difficult to believe that such a common phrase could be less than four decades old. But there’s some sense to the notion: it was during the late 1960s that rumors spread across university campuses that roasted banana peels had psychedelic properties, and that ingesting them could lead to hallucinations similar to ones brought on by LSD or psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms. (It isn’t true, folks.) The reference to students in the OED entry – at least to me – gives weight to the argument that the phrase may only date back to the era of freak-outs, flower children, and free love.
Interesting, huh? It would seem the origin of the use of “bananas” isn’t quite as straight-forward as some of the word/expression origins I’ve hunted down in the past few months. Let’s take a look at a couple of other theories.
From English Daily:
When apes are given a bunch of bananas, they eat them with tremendous enthusiasm, as though they’ve lost their minds.
The phrase may be associated with wild activities by monkeys who became acclimated to bananas as food (similar to the phrase go ape).
Or it may refer to wild, drunken behavior caused by drinking Indonesian native concoctions made from fermented bananas.
In conclusion, when the mentally ill are referred to as “bananas” or have been said to “go bananas” people are either comparing them to primates, stoned college kids or drunken Indonesians. I think this one goes down as one of the least politically correct terms so far. I’m not sure whether to be impressed or stunned. On a side note though, bananas do really helped with depression.