The Curious Origins of the Expression “Mad as a Box of Frogs”

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Have you ever heard someone say they were “as mad as a box of frogs” and not understand why? It’s a phrase with a fascinating history and origin story. Here, we will explore the various theories about this expression and discuss its use in everyday language today.


Where does the expression “mad as a box of frogs” come from?


The phrase “mad as a box of frogs” is an idiom that dates back centuries and has been found in many languages, but its origin remains unknown.

Some believe it may allude to how frogs hop around, seemingly crazily and erratically, which could have been seen as mad behavior by those unfamiliar with their natural behavior.

Others suggest that the phrase originates from folk tales about frogs who were once humans and changed form through some magical means, resulting in unpredictable and potentially dangerous behavior – leading people to think of them as wild and crazy creatures.

Whatever the truth, this expression has served us well over the years as a humorous yet effective way to describe someone who is extremely angry or full of energy.


The Expression Explained


The expression is used to describe someone very angry or frustrated.

Generally, it implies that the person has been driven to insanity by anger or frustration.

It was first recorded in print in 1868 when it appeared in a book titled Crotchet Castle by Thomas Love Peacock.

In the book, Peacock wrote, “He was mad as a box of frogs” – though he doesn’t explain why he chose this particular idiom to describe his character’s state of mind.

There are several theories on why this phrase came into being.

One suggests that it dates back to Ancient Greece, where people kept frogs in boxes as toys or pets (though there is no evidence to support this theory).

Another suggests that the phrase originated from English pubs, where people would challenge each other to guess how many frogs were contained inside a sealed wooden box (which could also explain why Peacock used it).

Still, others believe it relates to old wives’ tales about frogs making strange noises when placed in boxes. Whichever one is true, the phrase has become part of everyday language today.


Where We See It Today


Nowadays, the phrase “mad as a box of frogs” can be seen and heard everywhere, from books to films and television shows.

For example, TV series like Bones have featured characters saying they are “as mad as a box of frogs” – usually when they feel incredibly frustrated or angry.




Mad as a box of frogs is an exciting expression that has been around for centuries—and continues to appear regularly today. Its meaning remains open for debate, but it resonates with many people who use it when they need to express their anger or frustration. So whether you know its origin story or not, next time you feel madder than usual – take comfort in knowing that you are undoubtedly arearen’tone.

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