Today I had to fix something that was cracked, so I used Krazy Glue. Which, depending on how you see it, is either ironic or apposite.
Krazy is, of course, a respelling of crazy. But I’m not tasting crazy today; that word is far too freighted – abused and overused – for a Friday evening, or any other evening, really. Obviously krazy draws on a lot of that, too, but it’s transformed by the c being cracked into the angular k. So this word has not only the particularly odd and zany z plus the angular funnel (or drain) of the y but also that klunky kontrivance of the k, a letter that, thanks to history, karries with it a sense of the exotik but also the lunkish, brutish, and blockish… It’s kinda like a brick to the head, really.
Which is entirely apposite, because Krazy Kat is a primary vector for this spelling. The famous kartoon strip, published from 1913 to 1944, features a kat that’s in love with a mouse that, however, despises the kat in return. (Yes, yes, by kat I mean cat, but worc with me here. Back in that time, the eye-dialekt use of k in place of c was SOOOO HUMERRUSS. We still kinda do it, sorry!) So the mouse, named Ignatz, throws bricks at the kat that krak on the kat’s head and that the kat takes as tokens of true love. OH SUCH HUMOUR! PHYSIKAL VIOLENCE! AREN’T WE AMUSED BY THIS KRUELTY!
But if the bricks krack the kat’s skull, then that’s etymologically korrekt. Here’s where I’m going with this, or rather where it’s kome from: crazy originally meant ‘cracked’. Have you ever enkountered a “crazed” bit of pottery or glass? You know that means it has a lot of little kracks in it. Well, it’s related to French écraser ‘smash, crush, break, crack’ (notice the sound symbolism in all of those words, by the way?), and both are related to old Skandinavian words. Originally if you crazed a thing in English, you shattered it or at least left it like a windshield that has had a bad moment with a bird, or a bat, or a baseball. Senses spread from there, and metaphorically it came to refer to a similarly broken mind.
But crazy has taken on many senses over the years, some of them approbative – “Man, dig that crazy cat”; “That’s crazy delicious” – and, with the aid of the komik strip (in which the deluded feline is the sympathetik kharakter), plus the value of distinctive words and spellings in marketing (kan you get thru a day in marketing or advertising without x, q, or k? I bet you kan’t), that value has spread onto krazy more than the negatively toned ones have. And so one brand of cyanoacrylate (also often known as Super Glue), a brand partikularly popular in Kanada, is Krazy Glue. I’ve used it many times to fix kracks. Inkluding today.
The mental health meaning of “crazy” may have been influenced by the demon Azazel. In Hebrew, his name is spelled aiyin-zaiyin-aleph-zaiyin-lamed.
The Hebrew letter aiyin often had a CR sound in other languages. For example, aiyin-feh-lamed Ophel עֹ֫פֶל (the high fortified area of the Temple mount in Jerusalem) is cognate with Greek acropolis ἀκρόπολις.
In Medieval times, crazy people were thought to be under the influence of demons. So, giving that CR sound to the aiyin made Azazel sound like CRaZy aS heLL.
Similar mental health semantics probably applies to the word “nuts” which is a reversal of SaTaN.
To be crazy about something crops up in other languages too. In French, j’en suis fou – I’m crazy about it. In Thai, aroy pben baa – it’s delicious like crazy. I wonder whether English usage influenced the expressions.
One spelling error: ekzotic. 🙂