I Heart Derangement

I have this day decided how much I like “deranged.”

Denotations of  “to derange” derive straightaway from French roots that yield in English such words as “rank,” “arrange,” and the like.  “Derange” is a syllable shorter than “disorder” or “disarrange”  or “disarray.”

But I prefer the connotations and the pseudo-etymology I can imagine for “deranged.”  Many things may be “disordered,” “disarranged,” or “disarrayed,” but “deranged” usually modifies mentalities or minds.  I like to imagine that to call someone “deranged” is to say that he or she has ranged beyond behavioral norms.  A range of behaviors, expressions, and states of mind is normal.  Beyond the expected or predictable maxima or minima, a fellow human is going to extremes.  He or she is out of bounds, beyond reason, manic or depressed — outside the range.

This permits one who wields “deranged” a safe escape into idiosyncratic usage, sort of like Dershowitz and Palin with “blood libel.”  It’s a dodge.  That’s what I enjoy about it.

Orwell, I suspect, would hate this dodgy device.


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