Wire used in baling hay.
1. Not functioning or happening in a proper or orderly fashion: machinery that went haywire; an experiment that went haywire.
2. Mentally confused or erratic; crazy: The traveler went haywire over the endless delays.
[From the use of baling wire for makeshift repairs .]
Word History: Why should wire used in baling hay be a metaphor for something that is not functioning properly or for a person who is crazy? It would seem a story of semantics gone haywire. From the written record, it appears the use originated among North American loggers around 1900, who often used haywire to make repairs. These repairs were often considered shoddy or unreliable, and haywire developed the general sense "makeshift, inefficient," from which come the extended senses "not functioning properly" and "crazy."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
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