If You Were "Mad As A Hatter" In The 17th Century, You Were A Hatmaker With A Disease

Though it might sound old-timey to use the phrase "mad as a hatter" in casual conversation, you've likely heard it and understand its meaning. Mad as a hatter? You're crazy! But what's so off-the-wall about hatmakers to have inspired this phrase? Turns out, the saying refers to a genuine condition that affected hatmakers in the 17th century. If you were mad as a hatter back then, that would mean you were literally a diseased hatmaker.

From the 17th century through the 19th century, stylish hats were made with animal furs. The more expensive hats were made with beaver fur, and the cheaper ones were made from rabbits. Hatmakers would rub the cheaper fur hats down with mercury to make them smoother. Today, we know mercury isn't something you want to be messing around with, but mercury poisoning wasn't well known at the time. Inhaling toxic fumes from working with mercury gave the hatmakers slurred speech, personality changes, decreased motor skills, and a slew of other symptoms. This strange behavior birthed the phrase "mad as a hatter." Hear more about phrase origins in the videos below.

The Origin Of Mad As A Hatter

It really does refer to sick hatmakers.

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Origin Of The Phrase "Blonde Bombshell"

It's something you still hear today.

Written by Curiosity Staff October 14, 2016

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