Mad As a Hatter
I've often heard the phrase as, 'Mad as a hatter.' It turns out that in England during the 18th and 19th century people that worked in hat factories used felt to manufacture hats. Mercury was one of the main ingredients used in producing felt. Felt was the main material used in producing hats. Anyone who worked in a hat factory was exposed to mercury on a daily basis.
Over time their bodies accumulated large amounts of mercury. Exposure to mercury leads to mercury poisoning and many workers developed dementia. Of course dementia wasn't understood at the time, and these workers were considered to have gone insane. Hence the term, 'Mad as a hatter,' became popular to describe anyone who was insane. 200 years later its still a phrase that pops up now and again.
It affected hat makers all over the world and as the risks of mercury were discovered the substance became banned for use in hat factories. I have always been familiar with this phrase, but never knew how it originated. It is sad to think of all of those who suffered with no way to get help. As time goes on a phrase gets used and many never think of where it came from. I learned something new today.
Do you know the origin of some of the phrases you use?
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons - (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image Credit » Wikimedia Commons - (CC BY-SA 3.0)