Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Go Bananas

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 1, 2011

Gamewright published a board game named “Go Bananas” in 2000.  It was a children’s game designed by Monty and Ann Stambler with artwork by Dave Clegg and had a playing time of about 20 minutes.  The 55-card deck was comprised of 20 monkey cards with wild monkeys, 20 monkey cards with mild monkeys, 8 Gotcha Gator cards, 6 Banana cards and one Wild Gotcha Gator card.  And, of course, as cards were slapped onto the winning pile, players shouted “Go bananas!

According to University of Tennessee English Professor J.E. Lighter who wrote “The Historical Dictionary of American Slang” published in 1994, the phrase alludes to the phrase “go ape.”

On January 21, 1986 Ray Sons writing for the Chicago Sun-Times reported on how football’s Mike Ditka saw himself in his team’s rebels.  It was a three-part report and in part two that ran on that date, he wrote:

Jim Dooley, now Ditka’s assistant for research and quality control, was a split end when Ditka joined the team and coached Ditka and other receivers before succeeding Halas as head coach when the Old Man retired in 1968. He remembers the fire Ditka ignited, not only in games, but in practices. “Every practice was like a game,” Dooley says. “He’d go bananas if he dropped a pass, yelling and screaming.”  His fury was infectious.

Readers of the Anchorage Daily News were treated to an interesting article on April 13, 1978 by Jack Anderson entitled, “Washington Merry-Go-Round: Plugging The Carter Leaks.”

From time to time, we have published excerpts from the confidential minutes and memos of the Carter Cabinet.  This has upset the muck-a-mucks who attend the meetings.  They have started to go bananas over their inability to find and block the leak.

Just a few years earlier, on September 2, 1971 the Telegraph Herald of Dubuque, Iowa ran Erma Bombeck’s column, Wit’s End with the title, “Why Housewives Go Bananas.”  Erma Bombeck’s column that day was on the recent appliance epidemic in her home and how she viewed the events that led to the writing of the column.

However, the term banana as it relates to people comes from 1920s burlesque and vaudeville where a banana was a comedian.  The top banana was the main comic and the second banana was the straight man.  The phrase go bananas referred to an act that was badly under-rehearsed and relied on desperate slapstick.

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2 Responses to “Go Bananas”

  1. Slava said

    I note with interest the phrase muck-a-mucks quoted here. I’d like to learn more about that one, too. I’m more accustomed to high-muckity-mucks, so I’d appreciate seeing a deeper look into this murky muck.

    Thanks.

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