It’s WEDNESDAY!!! And time for another adventure in the origin of language. I have randomly chosen “berserk” for today’s word (actually, I chose berserk about 3 weeks for reasons I can no longer remember). So here we go!!
berserk: violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged:He suddenly went berserk.
1. violent, mad, maniacal, rabid, demented, lunatic.
berserk 1: an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable
It’s common practice to issue a newly diagnosed mental health patient a bloody axe and instruct them to chase villagers. (ok, not really, but it might be an interesting therapeutic solution)
1844, from berserk (noun) “Norse warrior,” by 1835, an alternative form of berserker (1822), a word which was introduced by Sir Walter Scott, from Old Norse. berserkr (noun) “raging warrior of superhuman strength;” probably from *ber- “bear” + serkr “shirt,” thus lit. “a warrior clothed in bearskin.” Thus not from Old Norse berr “bare, naked.”
Thorkelin, in the essay on the Berserkir, appended to his edition of the Krisini Saga, tells that an old name of the Berserk frenzy was hamremmi, i.e., strength acquired from another strange body, because it was anciently believed that the persons who were liable to this frenzy were mysteriously endowed, during its accesses, with a strange body of unearthly strength. If, however, the Berserk was called on by his own name, he lost his mysterious form, and his ordinary strength alone remained. [“Notes and Queries,” Dec. 28, 1850]
The adjectival use probably is from such phrases as berserk frenzy, or as a title (Arngrim the Berserk).
From Urban Dictionary:
Berserk: An anime and manga about a guy with a massive sword that he uses to literally maim most of the evil population. Includes some quality outtakes in the DVDs.
This does not seem to accurately reflect mental health as I know it. I know a lot of people with mental health issues and none of them are violently frenzied. Yet another example of how inaccurately we use language.