I’ll say it again, “apeshit”. “Ape shit”
What an amazing word, or, phrase. It’s fairly easy to guess that going ‘ape’ means a cataclysmic descending to the state of a primitive ancestor, acceding all one’s civilized restraint in a moment of fury. But to go ‘apeshit’. That effectively heaps on top of a meltdown of epic proportions a bestial dirty protest. It just doesn’t get any better, it is beautiful. It’s so complete in the way it transforms someone or something that it can majestically come out of nowhere (or at least this author believes it is best when it does). Observe:
Harold’s day in the cabinet had been going smoothly, there had been little objection to his proposal for a new policy on the unemployed road sweeping. Then when passing through the corridor leading to the minister’s office he went apeshit.
Boom, the entire world turns on that word. Harold cannot be considered to be a socialised human who is irked, vexed, annoyed, fretting or discommoded. This is someone who has just dropped off the chart. They have not just become another species, but another species so discommoded that even they have given up any other strategy than that of throwing their own shit. Harold may destroy the corridor, he may try to eat the minister and then make love to his/her lungs – you just don’t know! And that is another aspect of the phrase, it can suddenly and for no explicable reason remove a character from any rational system or causal sequence, they become a destructive, maverick force unleashed on the world. It was all going so well, so smoothly; the great illusion was free-wheeling along on well oiled wheels when that happened. And, don’t we suspect that polite society will later have to invent a euphemism for what ‘that’ was, or even blatantly lie about it. “Well Harold had been feeling a little under the weather and got into a little fracas with the minister. That’s when those damn awful Greenpeace folk attacked the building.”
So we’ve got a word that can turn a sentence *pop* just like that. Let’s put someone else in a car with it:
Geoff breathed out and rubbed his shoulders back against the passenger seat. He knew the lesson hadn’t gone well. He had begun to feel a bit nervous about driving, so it was some relief Frank had taken to the wheel. Frank followed all the correct procedures, as you would expect, and gently pulled out and accelerated down the road. Geoff closed his eyes at the moment Frank went apeshit and so it took him a moment to place the guttural wrenching sound as Frank started jerking rapidly back and forth, his face going red, accelerating towards the oncoming traffic.
Poor Geoff. He seems a little timid and reserved in this small passage, but now he’s probably going to have to put Frank out of service if he’s going to survive. Someone who goes apeshit is not going to be quick to calm down. You cannot negotiate with them. Diplomacy isn’t so much out the window as thrown through it tied to a brick or as a Yorkshire person may say, a ‘half Charlie’. Maybe they might tire themselves out quite quickly if in a position to transfer energy in to their environment, but here they are both stuck in a car and have about 30 seconds before a fatal accident. Here’s what I think could happen:
Geoff didn’t attack Frank. He’d watched the incredible hulk enough to know that a ripping shirt is a sign of a powerful force. Before he could catch breath Geoff watched in a semi-conscious state as he started tugging at his own shirt, pulling off the right sleeve. He shoved the sleeve in his mouth and started a high pitched – yet muffled – screaming. Geoff had also gone apeshit.
God help us! We now have two men in a speeding car who have both gone apeshit. It we were to continue to observe this heightened situation from the instructor’s car then it might read like this:
Mhahah arh argh man amamamamamamama arrrrgh m E E E E E E E E E E EE
That’s the closest I feel I can get to smearing paint on to the white wall of the institution that deemed me ‘no longer fit to be in society’, using a laptop keyboard in the safety of my home (maybe I need to give it more time). Here is the scenario again from a pedestrian’s point of view. Maybe this is their retrospective account to a news reporter:
Well, I heard the screeching of tires and in fact when I turned my attention to the vehicle I could also hear this kind of violent monkey-like shouting. It was really unnerving. The guy at the wheel had ripped his entire shirt off. I thought I saw blood dripping down his face where maybe he’d hit his head or something, he was really thrashing around. The other guy, who looked like, you know, a sort of stereotype librarian, had only managed to pull off one sleeve. I think he was trying to pull off the whole shirt, but couldn’t do it. It seemed like this second guy might be copying the first, but was like, not quite able to pull it off. But then when the car got close and I saw his eyes I knew it wasn’t like that. I saw a rabid dog on holiday in France once, it had the same look in its eyes. They were like crazed zombies.
And then what happened? Well, they drove in to oncoming traffic. I felt really devastated when I saw that they hit a family coming the other way. It’s just terrible. Oddly, I felt some relief when the two men were found dead. It’s like I expected them to survive somehow, supernatural like.
So two people go apeshit and suddenly there is a fear of something supernatural going on. Ben Aaronovitch‘s ‘Rivers of London’ books play with this in a fantastically expansive manner. Our anonymous by-stander also mentions Zombies, the most recognised of apeshit humanoids. But Zombies can usually transmit their rage in a viral form. Folk who are apeshit might exert some kind of influence over others, it’s reasonable I think to say that a crowd went collectively apeshit (if you were conservative you might say a mob). But nevertheless I think Geoff and Frank just happened to suffer the effects of going apeshit together by coincidence. It comes from quite an individualist model of behaviour, it is related to repressed anger. It comes when there is no longer any sane way to deal with the world because with all the patience one can muster the world itself sometimes doesn’t seem sane. The viceral innards of the human/beast are burning up in their confined deportment. Hunter S Thompson often caught this just right:
“There are times and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison right in front of your eyes, there is not much left except TV and relentless masturbation. It’s a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.” —Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s, 1988
There’s a masculine tendency to this discussion of apeshit, I know. Perhaps it is a word implicitly connected to male aggression, I don’t know. If you’ve experienced someone going apeshit, why not write about it in the comment section below? Know any good apeshit culture, Michael Douglas in ‘Falling Down’ being a given? Dear reader, you will now have to leave this blog and enter into the world of people again. Beware, you just never know when one of them may go apeshit….!