If someone has bats in the belfry (or is bats, or batty) it means they are eccentric or slightly mad (crazy).
A belfry is the top of a tower where bells hang (especially on a church).
Bats often roost (sleep) in belfries and one suggestion for the origin of this idiom is that bats roosting in a belfry will be disturbed by the bells ringing, and will fly around wildly. A person with bats in the belfry is behaving as though they have bats flying around wildly in their head!
Examples of use:
1. Our neighbour has bats in the belfry. Last week we saw him digging the garden while wearing a top hat and a wet suit.
2. Mrs Evans is a dear old lady, but I think she has bats in the belfry. Her house is full of junk she has collected over the past sixty years.
Other English idioms meaning ‘slightly mad’ are to have a screw loose, to be as mad as a March Hare, and to be as mad as a hatter.
I recently found a small second-hand book, ‘Idioms From Around The World’ (from Readers’ Digest), which lists a few idioms relating to madness from other countries:
- Spanish – hear footsteps on the roof
- Greek – for the festivals
- Swedish – gnomes in the loft
- Australian – a kangaroo loose in the paddock
- American – out to lunch
- Dutch – hit by a windmill
- German – all the cups are not in the cupboard
I love the way these idioms relate so vividly to the culture in their country of origin 🙂
Can you think of any idioms to add to this list?
Is there anything similar in your language?
Image © Sue Clark