All gone haywire

Dave Parker: I've been looking all over the place for this - perhaps you can help... "Haywire" has a sense which describes a state of disorder/chaos; how did that happen? Common dictionaries describe another sense wherein "haywire" is said to describe something quickly/sloppily engineered or contrived - is the disorder thing related to that or is it completely distinct?

Dan Stalker: I believe both meanings have the same origin. Haywire originally referred to a temporary or patched up repair using Haywire, also known in some places as baling wire - hence the meaning of haywire as sloppily engineered etc. It is but a small step to describe a state of affairs or process which is deteriorating as now resembling something sloppily engineered or poorly assembled ie gone Haywire.

Ed Dienes: Moses P. Bliss launched a new era in agriculture and business when he patented a hay press in 1828. His power machine had many defects, but use of it was better than trying to tie loose bales of hay with string. Demand for baled hay brought improvements that created bundles so firm they could be tied with wire. A major difficulty remained, however, as stiff wire easily became tangled or caught in machinery. At other times it would wind about legs of horses or snag clothing of workment. When cut, wire sometimes snapped outward with enough force to cause an injury. Until recent decades, production of hay in commercial quantities involved many accidents. As a result, we say that when a device or plan gets out of order, it "goes haywire".


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