By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Where did that phrase come from - All bent out of shape
Stan St. Clair

This is a metaphor that we probably all understand too well in our confusing 21st century. Sometimes we all are likely tempted to get this way about something going on around us or in the world.

“Bent” has been used figuratively since at least 1833 to describe being intoxicated. It led to “going on a bender.” Asa Greene, in “The Life and Adventures of Dr. Dodimus Duckworth, Vol. II,” on page 176 said:

“He was seldom downright drunk; but was often confoundedly bent.”       

The literal term “all bent out of shape” was also in use in the 19th century. Our First Year of Army Life by Edward A. Walker, published in June 1862, has the following citation, speaking of beds: “The iron ones were all bent out of shape …”

The online etymology site, English Language and Usage, cites 1967 as the first use as meaning upset or angry. That comes from a book titled “Current Slang” published by the University of South Dakota that year.

This, however, is quite late, as it was already in use by the time Volume 6, Issue 1 of the magazine The American Imigo was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in March, 1949. On page 16, under “It Pays to Conform” we see: “The conformist who is all bent out of shape.”

Not only has the weather has been hot this summer, but attitudes as well. Let’s try to keep our cool, and not get all bent out of shape if you can’t do anything about it. If you can, then do it peacefully.


If you would like to know the origin of a favorite expression, text the author at 931-212-3303 or email him at stan@stclair.net.