basket case

basket case
basket case (n.) 1919, American English, originally a reference to quadriplegics as a result of catastrophic wounds suffered in World War I (the military vehemently denied there were any such in its hospitals), from BASKET (Cf. basket) + CASE (Cf. case) (n.2). Probably literal, i.e., stuck in a basket, but basket had colloquial connotations of poverty (begging) and helplessness long before this. Figurative sense of "person emotionally unable to cope" is from 1967.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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