The Senate usually moves with all the deliberative speed of a snail on Valium, so everybody perked up when all of a sudden it voted unanimously to strike the word "lunatic" from the federal code. Since the bill must now go to the House for final approval, it's still quite possible that lunacy will remain official in The Homeland for eons to come. After all, the Senate did its usual half-assed job by allowing "idiot" to remain on the books.
Sen. Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, introduced the bill last month after it came to his attention that calling mentally disabled people lunatics is insulting. It is also outdated by about a century. The British Parliament, after all, got rid of the term way back in 1930, replacing it with "person of unsound mind."
The word "lunatic" appears in the U.S. Code in Title 1, Chapter 1, which covers rules of construction. Chapter 1 holds that when determining the meaning of any law, "the words 'insane' and 'insane person' and 'lunatic' shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis."
According to Conrad's bill, it also appears in laws related to banking that deal with the authority to take receivership of estates.Lunatic (derived from lunaticus) literally means "moonstruck" and despite its current political incorrectness, may actually have a basis in fact. From Wikipedia:
Philosophers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder argued that the full Moon induced insanity in susceptible individuals, believing that the brain, which is mostly water, must be affected by the Moon and its power over the tides, but the Moon's gravity is too slight to affect any single person, Even today, people insist that admissions to psychiatric hospitals, traffic accidents, homicides or suicides increase during a full Moon, although there is no scientific evidence to support such claims.
In a 1999 Journal of Affective Disorders article, a hypothesis was suggested that the phase of the moon may in the past have had an effect on individuals with bipolar disorder by providing light during nights which would otherwise have been dark, and affecting susceptible individuals through the well-known route of sleep deprivation. With the introduction of electric light, this effect would have gone away, as light would be available every night, explaining the negative results of modern studies. The authors suggested ways in which this hypothesis might be tested.I confess, having worked in both the journalistic and medical fields, to somewhat believing the theory that the full moon brings out the craziness in people. Ask any emergency room nurse, cop, or beat reporter if they don't agree. It just seems that after any given night of mayhem, it turns out that the moon was full. But actually testing the hypothesis as suggested by the above experts? Sounds like something the CIA may already have done.