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'Stir-Crazy' Is Not a Way of Cooking

 Cooks and volunteers stir eggs on an oversize pan at a Giant Omelet event in Malmedy, Belgium, August 2017.
Cooks and volunteers stir eggs on an oversize pan at a Giant Omelet event in Malmedy, Belgium, August 2017.
'Stir-Crazy' Is Not a Way of Cooking
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Now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

Today we talk about a common expression made from two common words -- stir and crazy. Put them together and you have the adjective stir-crazy!

Now, before we talk about stir-crazy, let’s talk about the words separately, starting with “crazy.”

We use the word “crazy” in so many different situations.

For example, one meaning of crazy is insane. If someone’s behavior is really annoying you, you can say they are driving you crazy - making you lose your mind!

Crazy also means in love with something or someone to an unusual, often comical degree. You can be crazy about baseball, crazy about spaghetti or crazy about traveling. If you are crazy in this way, we might say you have lost your head.

We also use the word “crazy” to mean an extreme level.

For example:

“She has been crazy busy these last few days!”

“That guy is crazy good-looking!”


“This spaghetti is crazy good.”

Now, the verb “stir.” When you stir something, you mix it up. In the kitchen, we often stir dishes like soup and cake batter.

However, stir used to have another meaning. Several online dictionaries say that in the mid-1800s, stir was slang for prison.

Aha! That information helps today’s expression make sense. “Stir-crazy” means you feel unhappy and upset because you have been in a place for a long time and you want to get out.

Some experts say the term “stir-crazy” dates back to the early 1900s. It was used to describe prisoners who become mentally unbalanced from being locked up. Other prisoners would say they went “stir-crazy.”

Today we use the expression to mean stuck in any situation where we do not want to be. If you are stir-crazy, you feel restless, trapped and bored.

Now, let’s hear the word used in some examples:

This class is so boring! When will it be over? I'm going stir-crazy sitting here!

The jury talked about the case in a small room with no air conditioner for nine days. By the tenth day, everyone was stir-crazy.

When is this rain going to stop?! I've been cooped up in the house with the kids all week. I’m completely stir-crazy!

That’s right. Even love for those with whom you are stuck is not a fix for feeling stir-crazy!

And that’s Words and Their Stories.

Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.

In the Comments section, share a time when you felt stir-crazy.

Anna Matteo wrote this for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

adjective – n. a word that describes a noun or a pronoun

lose your head – expression to not have control of your emotions

slang – n. words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language and that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people

bored – adj. filled with the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest

cooped up – verbal to keep (a person or animal) inside a building or in a small space especially for a long period of time —usually used as (be) cooped up