Tags

, , , ,

bedlam (say bedluhm) n. a scene of wild confusion/ a scene of uproar.

I am willing to bet that you’ve heard of the word bedlam. If you grew up living with three brothers like I did with whom you constantly fought, frequently played, and both were so noisy and outrageous that an onlooker unfamiliar with the subtleties of sibling affections might not be able to tell the difference. And if you had a father like mine who was old, grouchy and given to archaisms, then you probably heard it frequently in reference to the state and sound of your own house. Shouting, mess, confusion, kicking, hair-pulling, fighting, raucous laughter and generally something getting smashed – now that’s bedlam.

What you may not know, however, is why a place of uproar or confusion gets to be called bedlam. In 1247 there was a hospital founded in Bishopsgate called the hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem, later the Royal Bethlehem Hospital, and gradually shortened to Bedlam (you might have to imagine a medieval English accent at work here). This hospital was a lunatic asylum: a scene of wild confusion and uproar.

It may also interest you to know that a “lunatic” was called a “bedlamite” (though now I doubt very much that either word would be deemed acceptable, so I recommend refraining from trying them out on anyone whose political leanings aren’t known to you).

There’s no real reason why this is my word of the day. I just remembered it and liked it all over again.