unglued
Posted: 03 March 2018 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4634
Joined  2007-01-29

An LH commenter cites a Washington Post story today about tariffs which refers to the president becoming “unglued,” and asks:

Does the metaphor derive from the idea of inadequately bound books falling apart?

I thought that was a good question, so I’m placing it before this distinguished assemblage.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 March 2018 02:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  829
Joined  2013-10-14

Does the metaphor derive from the idea of inadequately bound books falling apart?

I would think so:

OED

a. trans. To free from the binding or adhesive effect of glue; to detach or make loose in this way.
1548 T. Cooper Bibliotheca Eliotæ (rev. ed.) Reglutino,..to vnglewe.
1598 J. Florio Worlde of Wordes Sgommare, to vngum, to vnplaister, to vnglue.

But anything Trump articulates seems to come from an unglued mindset.

Collins Dictionary

come unglued
phrase
If someone comes unglued, they become very upset and emotional, and perhaps confused or mentally ill.
[mainly US, informal]
If she hears what you’re saying, she’s going to come unglued.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 March 2018 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4634
Joined  2007-01-29

Excellent, thanks!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 March 2018 04:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3522
Joined  2007-01-31

While it’s certainly possible it derives from books, I don’t think it necessarily does. Glue is certainly used to hold other things together.

Interesting citation from the OED in the “unglued, adj.” entry:
1922 E. von Arnim Enchanted April xx. 322 Now that Mrs. Fisher too had at last come unglued,—Rose protested at the expression, and Lotty retorted that it was in Keats.

There is no citation from Keats, leaving me to wonder if that is true or not.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 March 2018 05:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4063
Joined  2007-02-26
languagehat - 03 March 2018 02:08 PM

An LH commenter cites a Washington Post story today about tariffs which refers to the president becoming “unglued,” and asks:

Does the metaphor derive from the idea of inadequately bound books falling apart?

I thought that was a good question, so I’m placing it before this distinguished assemblage.

Ties in nicely with unhinged

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2018 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6505
Joined  2007-01-03

I concur with Dr. T. The modern slang expression doesn’t necessarily come from a book metaphor. It may not be possible to pin down an exact metaphor given the nature of slang and as the idea of falling apart is pretty ubiquitous and applies to many things.

The slang sense of deranged, mentally confused dates to the early twentieth century, so the literal sixteenth century citations aren’t much use. There is the 1922 citation from the OED that Dr. T cites; that’s the earliest I find on a quick search. (I think searching in Keats would be in vain; I’m pretty sure that’s the joke.) Green’s has two 1930 citations. The one for the adjective unglued is, unfortunately broken, and all you see is an error message. For come unglued, Green’s has these for early citations:

1930 [UK] Dundee Courier 8 Aug. 11/2: You are some weeper, kiddo [...] Pull yourself togwether [sic] or you’ll come unglued.
1954 [UK] Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 108: It seemed to me that the great brain had at last come unglued, and this saddened me.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2018 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3522
Joined  2007-01-31

I did try searching some online Keats compendia, and it was indeed in vain.

I also tried Yeats, which seemed more likely both chronologically and thematically ("Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.") but didn’t come up with any uses of unglued by him, either.

[ Edited: 04 March 2018 02:23 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2018 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  504
Joined  2007-02-17

Books weren’t glued until relatively recently, were they?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2018 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6505
Joined  2007-01-03

I’m stretching my mind back to my history of the book course and coming up blank, and my go-to text on the subject doesn’t mention adhesives in binding. But glues were a major component in bookbinding dating to at least the nineteenth century. (They may have been used in attaching the pages to the cover much earlier. The pages themselves would typically have been sewn together.) But the nineteenth century predates the slang use of unglued, and that’s what we’re talking here. The literal use of the word, which goes back to the sixteenth century, comes from simple derivation, the addition of the prefix un- and needs no metaphor to explain it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2018 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  333
Joined  2007-02-24

I found this at: http://www.powis.com/resources/learn/binding_history.php

“Perfect binding was invented in 1895, but was little used for bookbinding until 1931, when the German publisher, Albatross Books, introduced the first paperback books as an experiment. In England, Penguin Books adopted the format in 1935 with their popular line of classic books. In 1939, Pocket Books in America started producing popular titles in paperback versions, which quickly caught on and soon everyone was reading paperback books. Early perfect binding was done with cold glues, which became brittle over time. In the 1940s the DuPont Company developed a hot-melt adhesive binding process, which made for more durable and longer lasting books, and improved the binding process.”

[ Edited: 05 March 2018 06:18 AM by Eyehawk ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2018 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  829
Joined  2013-10-14

Similarly used expressions: Bursting at the seams or coming apart at the seams.

I don’t know if these expressions predate that of unglued. One source informs that it became popular in the 1800s, but I don’t know whether it’s referring to its metaphorical sense or the literal one. Also, I question its reliability.

https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/bursting-at-the-seams

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2018 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6505
Joined  2007-01-03

c1386 Chaucer Parson’s Tale ⁋42 Chidynge and reproche..vnsowen the semes of freendshipe in mannes herte.

The OED also has the exact phrasing of bursting at the seams from 1962 and come apart at the seams from 1965, although the entry is old, so I’m sure these can be antedated.

Also, glues were used in bookbinding well before the appearance of the perfect binding. It was a common Victorian practice to sow the pages and then glue them to the cover. And using glues to make pasteboard covers dates back to medieval times.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2018 11:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1233
Joined  2007-03-01

The Chaucer quote clearly contains the same metaphor, but is an interestingly different take on it: rather than seams just bursting from strain, we have Chiding and Reproach actively taking a stitch-ripper to them.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 09 March 2018 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1428
Joined  2007-04-28

Like OP, I wondered about ‘unhinged’ as I remembered reading about book hinges somewhere but its sense actually comes from doors, which makes a lot more sense.

Cracked or starting hinge. 
A hinge is the place on the interior of the book where the cover meets the spine. Like spines, hinges are subject to separation. A cracked hinge, sometimes also called a starting hinge, is one where the paper has started to split but the cover is still attached to the book. If the cover were actually detached from the text block, it would be called a broken or split hinge. If the cover were completely separated from both the spine and the text block, it would be called detached.

Unglued, unhinged, spineless. He gets everywhere.

Profile