I’m a complete basket case.
This is the thought I kept going back to during my long run last weekend.
I kept thinking of myself as a complete basket case because I felt like a frazzled mess. Could the pain in my shin that had kept me from running for a week really just be a symptom of my anxiety? Could anxiety be making me slow?
What a basket case.
And then, because it was a long run and I had a lot of time to think, I started to wonder where the term “basket case” came from and what it meant.
I took a History of the English Language course in college. It was one of my favorite classes.
But I had never thought about the term “basket case” before. I guess I always had some vague notion that it had something to do with having a case of nerves, or something.
When I got home, I did some research.
Apparently, the term can be traced back to WWI, when, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it was used to reference quadriplegic soldiers. A few years later it took on the more current and figurative meaning, “person emotionally unable to cope.”
I am so grateful to have all of my limbs, and I will not be referring to myself (or anybody else) as a basket case in the future. It seems inappropriate and kind of makes me want to cringe.
I was surprised to see that my 1997 paperback edition of The Merriam Webster Dictionary makes no mention of the figurative definition. The entry simply reads: “1: a person who has all four limbs amputated 2 : one that is totally incapacitated or inoperable”
Did you know where the term “basket case” came from?