Booby hatch

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The idiom booby hatch has an uncertain origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the term booby hatch, some possible sources of origin, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Booby hatch is a slang term for an insane asylum. The term booby hatch has been in use at least since the 1930s, popularized by cartoonist Milt Gross in his comic strip Count Screwloose from Tooloose. The word booby to mean idiot has been in use since the 1590s, derived from the Spanish word bobo. There are several stories pertaining to the origin of the term booby hatch. One story states that the term evolved from the practice of confining a mad sailor inside a wooden hatch. Another story states that the term booby hatch is derived from a police vehicle used to transport criminals in the 1760s, which consisted of a wooden structure on runners and was known as a booby hutch. Another possible origin is the existence of a mental asylum in the Colney Hatch district in London. Once a terrible insult, the term booby hatch is now mostly used for comic effect.


They’re doubling down on that sound for Album Three, pushing their love of acid-tinged bubblegum right out the back door of the booby hatch, in a good way. (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Any way you slice it, the new supermadness is breaking the laws both of gravity and logic and providing a useful escape hatch from the booby hatch. (TIME Magazine)

San Marco ranted against minorities but was never violent, never arrested or committed to a booby hatch. (Santa Barbara Independet)