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Mad as a March hare


To be as "mad as a March hare" is an English idiomatic phrase derived from the observed antics, said to occur (incorrectly) only in the March breeding season of the Hare, genus Lepus. The phrase is an allusion that can be used to refer to any other animal or human who behaves in the excitable and unpredictable manner of a "March hare".

The first recorded use of the phrase is by Sir Thomas More, who was executed for treason and later depicted as A Man for All Seasons in Robert Bolt's 1960 play


Historical development of the idiom

The Mad March Hare and friends from Alice in WonderlandA long-held view is that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe is the month of March (but which in fact extends over several months beyond March). This odd behaviour includes: boxing at other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason and generally displaying abnormal behaviour. The first verbal record of this animal's strange behaviour occurred in about 1500, in the poem Blowbol's Test where the original poet said:

Thanne [th]ey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare

(Then they begin to swerve and to stare, And be as brainless as a March hare)

The first recorded use of the phrase itself appears to have occurred in 1529 when Sir Thomas More (who became a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 1935), wrote in his text, The supplycacyon of soulys made by syr Thomas More knyght councellour to our souerayn lorde the Kynge and chauncellour of hys Duchy of Lancaster. Agaynst the supplycacyon of beggars.

As mad not as a March hare, but as a madde dogge.

Whilst the phrase in general has been in continuous use since the 16th century, it was popularised in more recent times by Lewis Carroll in his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which has the March Hare as one of its main characters (along with the Mad Hatter). More recently, in Stanley Kubrick's classic film Dr. Strangelove, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) says to Colonel Batguano (Keenan Wynn), "Don't you know the General went as mad as a march hare and sent the Wing to attack the Soviets, don't you know that?"

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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