Crazy people with money are called eccentrics. What do you call a crazy, rich, crack-addled Hollywood celebrity like Charlie Sheen? Foxy.
“The truth of the matter is,
he could be crazy like a fox.”
Film producer Mike Medavoy in the New York Times.
“Crazy like a fox” is a fave idiom of Figaro’s. An idiom is a set of words that form a stand-alone meaning—a sort of rhetorical molecule made up of little word atoms.
Of course, foxes aren’t known for insanity, or even for feigning insanity. They leave that role to loons and celebrities. Instead, foxes are supposed to be crafty. And so “crazy like a fox” means “craftily crazy.” Which makes the idiom a paradox.
Now, a paradox (Greek for “against common belief”) performs a shotgun marriage between things that don’t belong together logically: such as “jumbo” and shrimp,” or “Charlie Sheen” and “sanity.”
But wait, there’s more: “Crazy like a fox” also employs marvelous sound symbolism—words that evoke a meaning by the way they sound. “Crazy” sounds craaaaazy, man. “Like a fox” sounds like something uttered by a narrow-jawed, muzzle-licking canid. Or by a rabid, moneymaking TV network.