Go Haywire

Meaning of Idiom ‘Go Haywire’

To go haywire means to work or behave in a crazy or disorderly way with bad results; to be out of control; wildly confused; to become chaotic and unpredictable. 1Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,2Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Usage

The idiom ‘go haywire’ implies that something, such as a machine, was ‘in control’ and functioning properly before it went ‘out of control.’ However, things can be said to ‘be haywire.’

Examples Of Use

“Something in their system went haywire and they charged my credit card $1.00 one hundred times in a row.”

“My computer went haywire today so I couldn’t publish any new articles.”

“Things went haywire on the Apollo 13 moon mission. It’s a wonder the astronauts made it home to Earth.”

“One little cold snap and everything goes haywire. Now there is no power, no water, and no food!”

Origin

This idiom is based on the wire used to bale tie hay (dried grasses) together into bales during the 1800s. This wire was cheap and widely available and thus used much like duct tape is today, for a myriad of binding or repair jobs. By the 1900s, haywire became associated with any cheap and unsophisticated solution.

It is not clear how ‘go haywire’ gained its present meaning,  but it was in use by the first half of the 1900s. One suggestion is that haywire was easily tangled and hard to manage and that once it became tangled it was very difficult to untangle. 4Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.,5Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,6Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.

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