For some reason, adjectives indicating mental instability have always been a key marker of difference between American and British English. We have crazy and insane; they have mad and daft. Does the New York Times article above indicate a meeting of the minds on mad, or merely that headline writers really like short words? Only time will tell.
Moving on to nouns, I’ve always felt the U.K. nutter is more expressive than our nut, and in recent years have wondered what U.K. visitors to Philadelphia (near which I live) think when they discover that it’s governed by a Mayor Nutter. Predictably, I enjoyed this quote from a recent Reuters article on the Murdoch scandals:
“We used to talk to career criminals all the time. They were our sources,” says another former reporter from the paper who also worked for Murdoch’s daily tabloid, the Sun. “It was a macho thing: ‘My contact is scummier than your contact.’ It was a case of: ‘Mine’s a murderer!’ On the plus side, we always had a resident pet nutter around in case anything went wrong.”
My pulse quickened some months ago when the PBS program “Frontline” posted Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning’s Facebook status updates, including this from September 4, 2009: “Thinks Cambridge, Massachusetts is full of crazy (but fun) nutters.” But it turns out that Manning’s mother is from Wales and he spent much of his adolescence in that country.
However, I haven’t given up hope on the nutter front and was very pleased to read this yesterday in John Nichols’ blog at The Nation:
But it is becoming all too clear that the “right-wing nutter” fantasy that the debt-ceiling debate could be gamed for political points is crashing into the prospect of a “crunching global recession.”
So far, no sightings of daft.