Heat Makes You Mad: Going Troppo & Mango Madness

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and are experiencing extreme heat for the first time, I have some Australian phrases you might find unpleasantly useful.

Content note: These are inherently ableist terms. At the same time, they describe a phenomenon which can happen to absolutely anyone, given sufficient heat. Both of these statements are true at once.

For examples of heat causing madness in fiction:

  • MASS HEAT MADNESS: Do The Right Thing directed by Spike Lee (1989): On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smoulders and builds until it explodes into violence.
  • SINGULAR HEAT MADNESS: The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942): In this novella an indifferent settler in French Algeria kills an unnamed Arab man in Algiers while disoriented and on the edge of heatstroke.

In Australia, when heat sends someone into a frenzy this is colloquially known as “going troppo“, short for “tropical”. It is common in Australian English to shorten words and then add ‘o’ at the end, and has no relation at all to the Italian word for ‘too much’.

I think going troppo is a real thing. 

Dr Mary Morris, a senior psychology lecturer at Charles Darwin University

Although ‘going troppo’ originally meant ‘mad from the heat of the tropics’, in Australia the phrase has come to mean ‘crazy in general’. This equates to ‘going postal’ in USA English, except ‘going postal’ started with a singular event whereas ‘going troppo’ describes a widely experienced phenomenon.

Other examples of similar Australian abbreviations:

  • arvo (afternoon)
  • smoko (smoke break)
  • bottle-o (liquor store)
  • servo (service station)

The word ‘drongo’ is a slightly outdated Australian insult which isn’t short for anything but also happens to end in ‘o’.


New research has linked tropical heat with higher rates of anxiety, stress and hostility, as well as fewer hours of sleep, reduced appetite and lower energy levels.

The study has been released as northern Australia enter the monsoonal build-up – the period of extreme weather tension known locally as “mango madness”.

Mango madness: Tropical seasonal affective disorder linked to stress and depression, research finds (2014)

‘Mango madness’ has subsequently become the name for cannabis which is grown alongside (and hidden by) mango crops in Australia. The product winds up smelling vaguely of mangoes.

(You’re supposed to ignore that the graph doesn’t make sense. According to its creator it was apparently made during a heat wave.)

More context for the King of the Hill cartoon:


On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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