My kids want to know where “berserk” is, as in “going berserk.” Is the derivation from a place?
No, but we like the idea. Somewhere near bedlam, we’d guess. In truth, it comes from a person, who was a bit of a wild man, as you might expect. In Scandinavian mythology, Berserkr was a great warrior who always entered battle wearing only a bearskin. The name comes from bera (bear) and serkr (shirt), and it was the Saxons who converted it to berserk. By the late 19th century, it had come to mean not just the wild man but also wild or frenzied behavior, often associated with frustration. Berserkr supposedly had a dozen sons, all of whom carried the same name and reputation as furious fighters. Legend also has it that the original Berserkr could take on the appearance of various wild beasts and that neither firearm nor flame could harm him.