I came home today after a(nother) long day at work to find a(nother) selection of spam waiting in my inbox. Today's pickings include a "555 Euro of Welcome Bonus!" at an online casino - mine if I make not one, not two, but four deposits, an offer for a miracle liquid that will enlarge a certain body part that I don't possess (but if I did, said enlargement would be sure to make my girlfriend ecstatic), another email in a language I don't understand which offers me a bonus of 555 USD (Speel vandaag en ontvang tot aan 555$ in Welkom bonussen) if only I click on a .cn link (didn't know Chinese looked so similar to Dutch!) and my daily request to update my account details by NatWest Bank that goes like this:
Dear NatWest Bank customer,
We have implemented security measures consistent with our internal information security practices to help us keep your information secure. These measures include technical and procedural steps to protect your data from misuse, access or disclosure, loss, alteration or destruction.
One of these security measures is NOF (NatWest Online Form) to help us to keep your personal and banking data up to date.
You should complete NOF on a regular basis.
Please complete NOF using the link below:
NatWest Online Form
NatWest Automated Mail Service. Please do not respond to this mail.
Is anyone actually taken in by these idiots? I suppose they would have found another way to fleece people if spam email didn't work, so it must be working. It seems impossible, but people out there must be gullible enough to believe that there's free money, hugely discounted "Swiss-made" Rolex watches and longer ding-dongs at the end of a spam email. Are they barking mad, I wonder?
Speaking of which, another email that came today from http://www.phrasefinder.co.uk/ informs me that there are a couple of stories which link 'barking mad' with the east London suburb of Barking. One is that the phrase owes its origin to a mediaeval asylum for the insane which was part of Barking Abbey. The second story isn't a suggested origin, just a neat 1980s joke at the expense of Margaret Thatcher. She was known by those who disliked her as 'Daggers' Thatcher - not from a reputation for stabbing colleagues in the back, but because she was said to be 'three stops past Barking'. Dagenham is three stations beyond Barking on the London Underground.
The problem with the asylum tale is the date - it is far too early. 'Barking mad' isn't mediaeval and began to appear in the language only around the beginning of the 20th century.
The first record of it in print is from the USA. The 11th November 1927 edition of the Oklahoma newspaper The Ada Evening News reported on the frenetic and, if contemporary photographs are to be believed, borderline insane sport of Auto-polo:
"At 2:30 this afternoon at Park field, a half dozen barking mad auto polo cars will be whirled into action."
That usage suggests a readership who were already familiar with the phrase, and the playing of polo in cars, while having a strong claim to epitomise madness, isn't the likely source.
A much more prosaic derivation, that the phrase refers to mad and possibly rabid dogs, is a more probable source.
Never let it be said that blogging isn't educational.