Wednesday sneaked up on me again (sneaked seems so wrong, I want to say snuck, but apparently sneaked is the proper, formal term; although snuck has gained informal recognition in North America – I am just a wealth of information today – thank you Google!). It’s been a week of ups and downs in the Madhouse and I’ve been allowing myself to ebb and flow with the tides; which isn’t always the best thing to do, from a mothering-my-house-is-messy-and-the-kids-are-going-to-kill-each-other standpoint, but oh well.
Today I have chosen the term “touched”. As in, “She’s a bit touched in the head, y’know.” (I envision the speaker of that sentence as a woman in her 5os, wearing a day dress that falls just below the knee, not a hair out of place, with a pill box hat, horned-rimmed glasses, white gloves and a slight southern drawl….the strange things I see in my mind.)
Anyway, here we go with “touched”:
1. moved; stirred: They were very touched by your generosity.2. slightly crazy; unbalanced: touched in the head.
From Your Dictionary:
A little bit crazy, somewhat deranged, as in I think the war left him a little touched in the head. [Late 1800s]
From Urban Dictionary:
1. A word used to politely describe someone that is incompetent.
“It’s all right Allison, she’s touched.”2. A person thats not quite right in the head or insane is touched, the word should be said whilst pointing towards the head. (I didn’t realize gestures were required.)
Boy: Today gemma scooby sat on the floor and sang to herself.
sister: Gemma… Is that the girl thats a bit touched, touched by an angel
3. Another way to say that someone is not quite “right” in the head. Usually accompanied by a knowing look and a nod along with the hand lightly tapped to the forehead.4. someone who’s just a little extra f*$ked up in a very wierd/almost non-tolerable sort of way. (I think this one’s my fav)
Many people thought the works of Picasso, Van Gogh and Igor Stravinsky were touched because they grasped concepts that were very hard to understand for their time.
I’ve experienced some difficulty in finding the origin of this expression and its use to describe mental illness. I think this passage from The Word Detective is probably the best source:
Meanwhile, back at your question, “touchy” and “tetchy” appear to be separate words, although they both mean “irritable.” “Touchy” in its basic sense, of course, simply reflects “sensitive to touch” or “delicate,” as we call a difficult or precarious situation “touchy.” The literal senses of “touchy” (including “easily ignited” in the 17th century) clearly involve the idea of physical touching.
“Tetchy,” meaning “easily irritated or made angry,” first appeared in the late 16th century (in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in fact), and, unlike “touchy,” has never carried any literal connotations of physical contact. “Tetchy” appears to be a derivative of “tetch,” an English dialect word meaning “tantrum,” but the first written record of “tetch” comes after the appearance of “tetchy,” so “tetch” may actually be a “back formation” derived from “tetchy.” The root of “tetch” is, predictably, unknown, but it may be related to “attach” in the sense of “grip.” There is also a possibility, which makes me very tetchy, that “touchy” in the “irritable” sense and “tetchy” have been the same word all along.
As for “touched” (in the sense of “slightly demented,” short for “touched in the head”), “tetched” is simply a “backwoods” or colloquial variant, and has no apparent connection to “tetch” in the “irritable” sense.
And for your visual comprehension –
I have to be honest with you though, I didn’t just randomly pick “touched” out of the air. I am a huge Kiefer Sutherland fan. Yes, that is my confession. Ok, not all of it. Anyway, his new show (which is nothing like 24) is Touch. Kiefer plays Martin Bohm, a single parent who’s 11-year-old son, Jake, is non-verbal autistic. Throughout the story Martin comes to believe that his son is trying to communicate with him through numbers and patterns. These numbers and patterns are the “math” that make up the destiny of the world and its inhabitants; how we’re all connected or or how we all “touch” one another. When these patterns become disrupted, Jake becomes increasingly agitated, and it is up to Martin to decipher what his son is trying to tell him and realign the pattern. No pressure, Martin. The fate of mankind depends on you recognizing the patterns only your son is able to see and everyone else thinks you’re “touched in the head” (great for father-son bonding I’m sure). Admittedly the show is a little “new agey” (some would say far-fetched) but enjoyable…